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Weighing the Options

When a teenager’s weight issues and Jewish identity intersect

The Editors
February 15, 2013

Over at Jewcy, Emily Shire describes growing up and struggling with being overweight—a struggle very much intertwined with her Jewish identity—in response to Dara Lynn Weiss’ controversial Vogue essay about her seven-year-old daughter’s weight issues:

Overeating was a part of my personal Jewish identity. Some of my favorite moments were—and still are—noshing on chopped liver as I help my mother clean up after our behemoth and beautiful Rosh Hashanah meals. And it wasn’t just that I associated delicious foods with Jewish celebrations. I grew up identifying with overweight Jewish women both real and fictional, like TV’s Rhoda Morgenstern and playwright Wendy Wasserstein.

At the same time, I don’t think it’s purely coincidental that the founder of Weight Watchers, Jean Nidetch, was a Jewish American woman, a fact I discovered at my first meeting in June of 1997. Weiss noted that at age 7, her daughter Bea was 4-feet-4-inches and 93 pounds; I was 4-feet-8-inches and 99 pounds. I stood on a scale in a boardroom with posters of lean fish portioned to the size of a deck of cards and scoops of yogurt the size of tennis balls. Though surrounded by women, I was the only one who hadn’t hit menopause, aside from my mother who sat holding my hand.

Like Weiss, my mother had been warned by the pediatrician that her daughter’s weight threatened her health. My mother battled with her weight at different points in her life, as had her mother. I come from a line of Jewish women with a loving, but also problematic, relationship with food.

Read the rest here.

From the editors of Tablet Magazine.

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