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.
A businessman would freak out if he did not see any growth in his business, and yet when it comes to spirituality people are so much more lax about growth. This is a huge problem! If you have more energy for your business than you do for your spirituality you are putting yourself in a constricted consciousness and limiting the flow of blessings from Hashem. If you want success you should be supremely concerned with your spiritual growth, as this is the source of all success and parnassa.
Think about this: why is a woman not allowed to go to a regular pool as a mikvah? Why is it imperative it be rainwater? Rainwater represents something from Hashem, whereas a pool represents something man made. When we connect to something from Hashem, we get blessings, when we connect to something man made we get disorder. The same is true of our food! This is why GMOs are such a problem today - when man mixes two seeds together he is demonstrating doubt in what his creator has provided for him. When a person eats these GMO products they are unrecognizable to your stomach, your digestive system struggles to process it, and you get inflammation. What is the root of this problem? We went against Hashem and his creations!
Rabbi Nachman spent a great deal of time and energy on the connection between our food and our brains. Today, all the evidence shows that 90% of our serotonin is produced in our stomachs. This is like having a second brain in your stomach! Serotonin is the neurochemical which helps us feel like everything is OK, so if you are taxing your stomach by eating bad foods, you reduce the serotonin production and suddenly you don’t feel so good. This is why diet and exercise have such a dramatic impact on curing a person’s depression!
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 we eat, we are mixing the body and soul together, so eating is a time during which we can either achieve great spiritual heights or sink into terrible lows. This is dependent on what sort of foods we are eating. I see so many people today who are addicted to food, trapped in their eating habits they have become slaves to the foods they eat. These people are constantly exhausted - they are asleep physically and spiritually. This is because the effort required for the stomach to digest food tires a person out, literally draining you of energy and putting you to sleep.
Today’s society is plagued by a great deal of stress and anxiety also. When we are stressed out, our immune system is weakened, and any toxin that enters our stomach is more likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream, causing inflammation and leading to all sorts of maladies. Fixing your diet is a great way to fix your gut, strengthening your immune system and blocking these toxins from access to your bloodstream.
Some people combat this stress by taking anti-anxiety medication, but these pills have a similarly toxic effect on our gut health as well. They inhibit serotonin production and block nutrient absorption, causing all sorts of unintended problems on their own. Rather than lean into pharmaceuticals to cure your stress, focus on fixing your diet and fixing your gut so your stress is alleviated naturally!
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!
It is said when a person breaks his desire for eating the holy one will perform a miracle for you because he sees you are able to control yourself and are satisfied with what you have. Truth leads to wealth, while lies lead to poverty, and a person constantly running to food is a sign of a lacking in truth and will lead them to poverty. This is why Jews declare fasts - to rectify judgements in their lives! When we get stressed out, our instinct is to run to junk food for a quick hit of dopamine so we can check out of life, but this is not how we are meant to handle our problems. Again, our spiritual problem here is a lack of truth. The truth may hurt you, but it will set you free.
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!