Why I Don't Fast on Yom Kippur

I’ve been in some form of recovery from my eating disorder for many years. I’ve gotten through pretty much every challenging food situation that has come my way. I’ve tolerated my body changing. I’ve embraced hunger and taking up space. And I don’t fast on Yom Kippur.

I know that I could fast and it wouldn’t trigger my eating disorder. I could fast and break the fast and wake up the next day and eat normally again. I appreciate all the articles I see this time of year by Jewish people who are struggling with an eating disorder or are early in recovery talking about why they don’t fast. These articles are so important and necessary in giving permission to others in similar situations to not fast on Yom Kippur. And the truth is, you don’t need an excuse or reason not to fast on Yom Kippur.

For me, I don’t fast on Yom Kippur as a way to honor a different time in my life. The time I almost died of anorexia. The time when smallness was what I valued above everything else. The time I denied hunger. The time that eating was much much harder than not eating. 

I know that Yom Kippur is about repenting and atonement. I know that it’s a day to reflect and pray and that it’s not supposed to be an easy day. And eating is easy for me now. Fasting would be harder. And I’m not going to fast. I’m not going to fast even though I’m not emaciated anymore. I’m not going to fast even though I’m not thin anymore. I’m not going to fast even though many weight biased people in the world would say it would be good for me to fast. 

I’m going to eat to honor the long lineage of people in my family who have struggled with restrictive eating and eating disorders. I’m going to eat to honor my ancestors who didn’t get to. I’m going to eat to acknowledge the work I’ve done to untangle the inter generational trauma and hopefully change things for the next generation.

I entered the world in a body that was not considered acceptable in my family because of its size. I was not given permission to eat as a child and I have fought hard to give myself permission to eat. I do not want something to take that permission away-even a holiday- even for one day. There’s been way too many days of fasting in my life already. I’m not intentionally doing another one. Eating is hard won. 

The G-d I pray to is not the G-d I learned about as a kid. That G-d, I was told, judged and balanced my good deeds and mistakes and based on which I did more of decided my fate for the year. The G-d I pray to now is a loving and compassionate G-d. She is not interested in judging me and She is not interested in deciding my fate based on how my year balances out. And She is certainly not interested in tipping my fate in one direction or another based on whether I eat or not. The G-d I pray to now will be proud of the work I’ve done to make eating easy and will know that the good I do in the world has nothing to do with the size of my body or whether I fast or not on Yom Kippur.

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