I have studied diet and nutrition a great deal due to my working in the addiction treatment industry, and I have come to realize just how significant our diet is to our physical, mental, and spiritual health. The first sin that ever occurred in history was through eating, and Rabbi Nachman teaches us that food has the ability to put us to sleep both physically and spiritually. Yet obesity is an epidemic in this day and age as people disregard their diet, thinking they have other things they should worry about rather than what they are eating. When you don’t feel good due to the food you are consuming, you are not getting the right chemicals to your brain and your decision making will be impaired.
I started keeping Kosher about 10 years ago now, and before I made the switch I had the worst memory you could imagine. People would tell me their names, and I would forget before the conversation was over. Once I started keeping Kosher, I saw a great improvement in my memory, which really reinforced this idea that our food has a great impact on our brains. Keeping Kosher is not easy, and many of us do not keep Kosher at all today, but try setting aside one day a week in which you will keep Kosher. One day a week is not so much to ask, and you will be amazed at the positive effects it has on how you feel, your energy levels, and your mental clarity!
When a person eats the proper amount of food they feel energized, but when they eat to excess they feel exhausted. Excess in any area of our lives, whether it is food, money, sex, whatever, gets you a qliphoth. A qliphoth is a negative husk which feeds off of the excess you have taken. The last thing we want is to start collecting qliphoths, so avoid indulging in excess in any area of your life, especially food!
All our problems begin as spiritual issues before they manifest in other areas of our lives. People who are dealing with excess weight and obesity are often hiding behind this layer of fat, as they lack self confidence and are trying to hide from the world. Constant cravings for food are a sign of a person having judgements upon them, as Hashem blesses you when he sees you are satisfied with enough but takes from you when he sees you craving excess. Therefore, you should seek to fix the spiritual problem as once that is remedied Hashem will give you the desire and energy required to lose the weight.
Any time a person is faced with poverty it is due to a blemish of the truth. We rectify this blemish through fasting, as fasting starves the body in order to feed the soul. We are spiritual beings meant to have physical experiences, not the other way around! In this way, an overindulgence in physical things such as food can starve our spirits and take us away from Hashem.
I know so many people who are dieting properly and exercising regularly but they cannot seem to lose weight. Why is this? They are getting stressed out all day long, which is spiking their glucose levels and causing the body to store this sugar as belly fat! This is why belly fat is the hardest type of fat to lose, as stress triggers our body to build up an excess fat supply in our belly in case of famine. The best way to lose belly fat is therefore to reduce stress, decreasing cortisol production and the release of glucose in our systems. How do you reduce stress? By increasing emunah! If you want to reduce stress in your life you have to chill out and live in the present. Give your body a chance to heal in the now and stop agonizing over what is coming in the future.
Stress also triggers us to eat the wrong types of foods, which leads to inflammation. High levels of inflammation are seen alongside so many serious illnesses of today: cancers, heart disease, diabetes, these are usually accompanied by inflammation. If inflammation is brought on by our diets which are affected by our stress levels, then the main cause of a person’s illness and suffering is a lack of emunah.
So many people obsess over counting calories in order to lose weight today, but this is a misguided practice as all calories are not created equal. Something may be sugar free and zero calorie, but it contains so many artificial chemicals and fake sweeteners your stomach has no idea what to do with it! More important than calorie counting is improving our metabolism, and the best way to do this is through exercise. Start exercising regularly and you will be amazed how much better you feel in terms of energy, sleep quality, and stress level.
When we eat foods high in sugar or carbs, we usually see a spike in glucose levels which is followed by a crash. These variations lead to wild energy swings throughout our day, causing anxiety and depression as we experience jitters and mania followed by exhaustion and lethargy. This is another reason calorie counting is useless - olive oil has 150 calories per serving and is incredibly good for you, whereas diet coke is zero calorie and is absolutely horrible for you! These heavily refined, processed foods we see on grocery shelves today are causing us so many health problems you cannot begin to imagine. In 60 countries, many in Europe, GMOs are banned. Why is this? Because European countries have government subsidized healthcare, so when the citizens get sick from their food, the government has to foot the bill! Here in America, corporations make money when people get sick, so the same corporations said “Bring on the GMOs!” Remember - if it comes from Hashem, it will digest properly, if it comes from man, it will not.
No one is asking perfection of you in terms of diet. It is OK to cheat every once in a while, but if these occasional cheat meals become consistent cravings you’ve got a big problem on your hands. Sugary foods trigger the same reward center of our brain that cocaine does, so it is very possible to develop an addiction to these high sugar content snacks. If you allow this addiction to form, you are really damaging your physical and spiritual health and limiting your success and happiness in life. Opt for simple, natural foods instead and let what Hashem created nourish your body and soul.