In my inaugural post on “Grub first,” I wrote about Rosh Hashanah, my favorite holiday of the year. The Jewish New Year begins this year at sundown on Wednesday, September 8th, on my second day of classes. I did not discuss at length in that first post the holiday that follows Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, perhaps for the obvious reason that Yom Kippur, the holy Day of Atonement, is defined by an absence of food. No food, no “Grub.” Right?

Not quite.

Yom Kippur is a hugely significant holiday in the Jewish faith, but it is not one that most secular-but-selectively-observant Jews like myself look forward to. A day of starvation and lengthy synagogue services do not a joyous people make, after all. Even the anticipation of the lavish break-fast to come seems incapable of tempering the austerity of the holiday, and so I have come to consider Yom Kippur the “less fun and more painful” twin of Rosh Hashanah, sweet and vivacious as she is.

As a 10- or 11-year-old, my Hebrew school friends and I decided to join our parents in the annual fast of Yom Kippur. A day without food seemed to us a fun challenge, a feat to later brag about to our goyish friends. We wouldn’t be attending school anyways (score!), so why not test our capability to do without that which was so readily available the other 364 days of the year?

In the years since my struggles with eating first began, Yom Kippur has taken on new meaning for me. Yom Kippur is no longer the day in which I starve and am miserable, but has become the day in which I starve and am miserable, as well as an emotional wreck.

The first year I fasted for Yom Kippur post-E.D. drama, I felt a deep sadness that could only be attributed to such a blatant reminder of what restricting my food intake as an anorexic had felt like. Lying in the bath tub, conscious of my gnawing hunger and empty stomach, I felt as though my emotions had dressed themselves in gaudy costume jewelry and put on an extravagant show for a reluctant audience of one– myself.

I also felt, to my surprise, lonely and alone. No matter that my family was fighting the same hunger pangs just downstairs, my empty stomach had reduced my surroundings to mere white noise. All that mattered was the ridiculous performance my feelings had worked up, sadness trailing loneliness across the stage.

I can’t blame Yom Kippur for the Mardi Gras celebration my emotions so kindly put on, but that incident and the Yom Kippurs since have reminded me that hunger remains a personal and emotional experience for me, regardless if it is sanctioned by the religion I was born into.

Hunger reminds me that I once ceded control of a need so instinctual I have been doing it since birth to disordered thinking. That, sometime after my 16th birthday, I lost the ability to eat without attaching emotion to the act. Hunger is a mournful reminder that I am still, despite greater insight and growth, a card-carrying member of the “eating disordered.” That, despite my current ability to eat dessert without guilt and butter without fear, I can never reverse the hyperawareness of food and body that pre-adolescent Sarah did not have.

There exist myriad opinions on the question of ritual fasting for people who have struggled with eating disorders; I have my own as well. I have in the past year or so come to the conclusion that doing without for Yom Kippur is too much too soon for me. I can’t fast without getting caught up in the heady and emotional nature of controlled starvation.

At least not yet.

I do not believe that I will ever forget that one serving of skim milk has 90 calories, and a slice of bread 70-100. But I do believe in recovery, although it is often elusive to me.

With enough stability in my recovery and years behind me, I have faith that abstaining from food for Yom Kippur, or for, say, a fasting glucose test, will be no different than it would for anyone else.

Until that time, though, I will eat on Yom Kippur as I do the rest of the year, and know that my atonement means as much as any else’s.

Shana Tova Umetukah. A good and sweet year!

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