The Seder Table is Full - Why Isn't Rachel Eating?
Rachel is 16 and weighs less than 90 pounds. Â Â
â€śI want to be even thinnerâ€ť â€śI need to fit into my special Yom Tov clothingâ€ť â€śI must lose 5 pounds before Yom Tovâ€ť â€śIâ€™ll exerciseâ€ť â€śI can drink waterâ€ť â€śIâ€™ll keep this up I want to look goodâ€ť â€śIâ€™m going to look even better than my sister who never struggled with her weightâ€ť â€śSo what if I sometimes feel faint and am weakâ€ť.
Rachel isnâ€™t eating much today and is already planning what not to eat at the Seder; her life is a daily battle with an eating disorder. The matzos, wine, and festive meals we are commanded to eat on Pesach are often especially difficult for teens like Rachel who are struggling with such disorders. Â Â
Who are these people like Rachel? They are our daughters, our sons, our nieces, our nephews, our grandchildren, our neighbors, and our friends. Â Â
Rachelâ€™s distraught mother knows that Rachel has a problem with food. She has always been a picky eater and is getting â€śtoo thinâ€ť. Like many young women who feel tremendous pressure to be thin, Rachel has fallen victim to the insidious eating disorder of anorexia nervosa. After visiting a physician and nutritionist, Rachelâ€™s mother knew that Rachel needed more help. Â Â
She is finding that help at OHELâ€™s Eating Disorder Treatment Program. Â Â
Professional therapists in OHELâ€™s Eating Disorder Treatment Program are helping change the direction of life for Rachel, her family members, and others coping with similar problems. Â Â
Because of OHELâ€™s help to her and her family, Rachel is already seeing a difference in her life, although she has a long road ahead of her, says Sorele Witkes, a therapist in OHELâ€™s Addiction Treatment Program. Â Â
Many people in our communities, including male and female adolescents, middle-age women, and even men, are struggling with anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders. Â Today, people are far more aware of eating disorders; adolescents, parents, rabbis and educators recognize that if left untreated, a person may develop severe health problems that can even lead to death. Â Â
Todayâ€™s society places a tremendous emphasis on body image and weight. Escaping hearing something related to body image or weight on a weekly basis is an extremely difficult task, if not impossible. Whether it is through various media outlets discussing the issue, or the young woman who is having a hard time getting set up because she is not the â€śideal body weight.â€ť Â Â Â
With such external pressures to look thin, it is imperative that people of all ages are aware of the symptoms and signs of someone struggling on the brink of an eating disorder or currently struggling with one. People with eating disorders may exhibit symptoms such as:Â
- Preoccupation with weight and dietingÂ
- Throwing up after eatingÂ
- Binge eatingÂ
- Feelings of hopelessness, orÂ
- The need to be perfect. Â Â
Adolescents and adults, male and female, need your emotional support Â– and that is important whether from family members or friends. Â It is only by creating a safe environment where teens or others struggling with an eating disorder can talk about their concerns, that people like Rachel can begin the healing process, stresses Sorele Witkes. Â Â Â
OHEL is helping you and your communities address this growing issue. OHEL therapists and counselors are available to provide school based prevention programs and workshops for administrators, teachers, students and parents. Public forums and presentations can also be organized for shuls and other community-based organizations. Â OHELÂ’s therapists are also available to provide specialized counseling to individuals suffering with an eating disorder and to their families. Â Today, OHEL is the address that people in our community turn to with adolescent problems, including eating disorders and other addictions. Â Â Â
OHEL therapists have developed an information card which lists the signs and symptoms of eating disorders as well as some preventive measures. Â This card is available to the general public. Â Â
If you know someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, do not feel ashamed and do not delay. Call for help. Â Services are provided on a sliding fee scale. Â Orthodox therapists who understand the community provide therapy under Rabbinic and Halachik auspices. Therapists speak Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian and of course English. Â Â
Please donâ€™t ignore Rachel and so many others who are struggling with eating disorders. Â Help them enjoy the Seder too! Â Help them lead fuller and healthier lives! Call OHEL for a consultation at 718 851 6300.