A note on eating disorders and appetite and satiety in the orthodox Jewish meal

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Abstract

The relationship between religion and eating concerns is receiving increasing empirical attention; and because religion seems to be important to many women with eating concerns, there is an interest in investigating the role religion plays and ways that religion might be employed therapeutically. Research has indicated that women who feel loved and accepted by God are buffered from eating disorder risk factors. An aspect of religiosity that is unique to Judaism is Halakhah, the system of Jewish Law and Ethics which informs the life of a religiously observant orthodox Jew. In this note, we briefly describe how Halakhah approaches the issues of appetite and satiety in eating meals. These might well contribute to the protective influence regarding tendencies for eating disorders in a person whose culture demands an awareness of and commitment to halakhic norms. Some of the most significant characteristics of disordered eating—lack of appetite, disturbed satiated response, withdrawal from community and decreased spirituality—correlate inversely with the halakhic requirements of eating a meal. We suggest that future studies of orthodox Jewish women measuring eating-order symptomatology and its correlation with religiosity might focus not only on well-known indicators of halakhic adherence such as kashrut and Sabbath observance, but also on the specifics of how their kosher meals are eaten, including ritually washing one’s hands before eating, saying the appropriate blessing before and after eating, eating the required two meals on the Sabbath, and fully participating in the Passover Seder meal.