FOOD GOING TO WAIST
Obesity is one of the UK Government’s health priorities. Almost two-thirds (63%) of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity – and one in three children leaves primary school overweight or obese
David Robson, in his recent book, The Expectation Effect, argues that apart from what we eat, the way we frame food can have a significant effect on the impact it has on our bodies
Research from a Canadian and French study in 2016 showed that when we anticipate what we are going to eat and focus on the flavours and textures we are going to enjoy, we actually eat less. Participants in the study opted for smaller portions than the control group who had not been primed to think about the sensory qualities of the food. And afterwards, making a point of focussing on had been eaten and recalling its enjoyment had a notable impact on diminishing the temptation to snack between meals
Such ideas are not new to Jewish teaching.
In this week’s parasha, we read about the food in the context of the land of Israel. Then we are instructed: You shall eat, and be satisfied, and bless the L-d, your G-d.
The rabbis derive the blessings we make before and after food from this passage.Before we eat anything, we take a moment to acknowledge that the food is a gift from G-d. We say a short beracha e.g Blessed are You, Hashem, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the tree – and then we are allowed to enjoy it.
After we have eaten, we are required to reflect on the food once again. This time to thank G-d for the pleasures we have enjoyed. Birkat HaMazon or Bentching is the fullest form of this ‘thank–you’ to G-d. It is said after a meal with bread. Other, shorter forms of after-blessing, are made following other kinds of foods.
Of course, when they composed these blessings, our sages did not have obesity in mind! They wanted to sensitise us to the blessings around us in everyday life. Nevertheless, the religious framework is already in place for incorporating David Robson’s advice for addressing overeating.
Saying berachot may not guarantee physical weight loss, but it will certainly guarantee our spiritual weight gain!