The Washington Times published an article on eating disorders in the Orthodox Jewish community. Julia Duin writes:
Staff members at Renfrew, where 12 percent of the patients are Jewish, said they noticed an uptick in Orthodox clients in recent years.
The main pressure, they said, is on the Jewish mother, who is responsible for keeping a kosher kitchen (a mammoth amount of work), providing a generous Sabbath dinner and dessert for not only her household, but various guests who wander in at any point during a Friday evening.
Jewish holidays are the worst, they said, as the amounts of food required take weeks to prepare. A woman’s worth often rests on the quality of her cuisine.
Well, I may not like it but there is a lot of truth to that last line.
The Orthodox Union got so concerned with this trend that it produced a film, “Hungry to be Heard,” warning viewers to watch for signs of these afflictions, particularly among teenage girls who feel their looks aren’t good enough.
In Orthodoxy, I was told by Adrienne Ressler, one of the panelists, the Orthodox girl wants to be chosen “by the best groom and by the best groom’s family.”
“So the pressure is to be very thin.”
In some cases, the prospective groom’s family not only wants to know the girl’s dress size, but that of her mother, so they can project what the potential bride will look like in 18 years.
“Sometimes, they put a girl’s health records online,” she said. “It’s like buying a horse. I think women can be silenced in that community. The eating disorder is the red flag.”
Many factors lead to eating disorders in the Orthodox community, and most of them are universal. I think the best thing mothers can do for their daughter is to exercise and eat wisely and share why it’s important. But when women talk about diets, and complain about the way they look, their daughters (and sons) get the message.
Related: Putting Food in Perspective (at Cooking Manager)