The Hierarchy of Dieting
by Rosally Saltsman
Whoever has studied psychology has heard of Maslow. He was a
psychologist who developed the Hierarchy of Needs, a pyramid
which depicts different kinds of needs which human beings
strive to fulfill. His approach was that human beings are
generally upwardly motivated; once lower (animalistic) needs
are met, they naturally strive to actualize their potential
in relationships and attempt to improve themselves and
society. The pyramid goes from physiological needs to safety
needs, through love needs, esteem needs and finally, self-
So basically, if you are in a war zone, you won't be
concerned with finding a shidduch or completing a
diploma; you'll be focused on staying alive. And if you don't
have money for or access to food, you'll be rooted at the
bottom of the pyramid, trying to get some.
This is good general knowledge when we're trying to motivate
ourselves or others to achieve, but it is also relevant with
regards to dieting. One of our physiological needs is food
and our physiological motivator is hunger. People who are
dieting, trying to diet or are thinking about trying to diet,
are preoccupied with food. Although being on a diet and
starving are two very different things, in reality,
physiologically speaking, they stimulate a similar type of
"hunger" which prevents the person from ascending to greater
heights of the pyramid. The time, money, energy and thought
spent on measuring, buying, preparing and thinking about food
and "not eating it," pre-empts more productive activities.
This in itself should be an impetus to finally lose the
weight so one can get on with life. Or, alternately, one can
just come to terms with it as long as the extra bulk isn't a
potential health problem — not everyone on a diet
lose the weight. I have never heard a eulogy for a woman
extolling her slim physique. It isn't hinted at in Eishes
Chayil and though our matriarchs and prophetesses have
been referred to as beautiful, nowhere does the Tanach
mention how exceptionally slim they were. The criterion for
the ideal weight has changed significantly over the decades,
centuries and millenia.
While guarding our health is very important and being
attractive is certainly pleasant (though I know some unslim
women who are lovely), making the most of our potential and
limited time on this earth behooves us to reconsider the
amount of time we spent agonizing about calories and
milligrams on the one hand, and finally adopting the proper
discipline to make sure we lose whatever weight we need to
lose, on the other. And I mean it when I say `we.'
This, of course, does not include our food preparation for
Shabbos, holidays and seudos mitzvah. That is
spiritual, even though it's tasty and satisfying.
As Jewish Women, we have an inherent obligation to rise as
high as we can on the pyramid.
Maybe we can take the steps for extra exercise.