Why do I keep kosher? It’s a solid question. I didn’t grow up in a kosher home and I explicitly remember eating my mom’s bacon (which is the bomb), but something hit me when I was a young twenty-something in my college years.
For the majority of my life I struggled with self-esteem issues and weight problems which, as I’m sure many women can relate to, never really go away. As I like to say, once a fat kid always a fat kid. It doesn’t matter if you’re a skinny adult or not, I think it’s just something you’ll always carry with you.
This leads me to my next point, as I began my journey into adulthood I got hooked on a lot of things. One of them being vegan - shocker for those that know me today as a meat-eating-queen. I remember sitting in a summer biology class and learning about the horrible effects of animal testing. In that second I gave up all animal by-products.
Like, I went straight up cold turkey for 2 years and didn’t look back once.
Aside from the pronounced incredible effects veganism has on your health and the environment, I basically thought that veganism was how I was going to get the body I dreamed of - eating raw veggies and hummus all day long.
A few years later, after I matured a bit, fell in love with the chabad house on campus (while still vegan by the way) I realized that living a vegan lifestyle was giving me the willpower to do things I had never done before, like keep kosher. Finally, in my 23 years of life, I figured out how to say no to food and have a semi-healthy relationship with what I put in my mouth.
Unbelievable, right? It was around this time in my veganism that I began to gain weight after a year abroad and my mother encouraged me to go see a nutritionist.
My nutritionist figured out my body was lacking protein and after a few sessions I decided to give up veganism. The journey didn’t stop there though, I knew if I was going to allow myself an open door policy with all food, I needed to find a balance. And where better to turn at a time like that than your own faith? That’s when I decided to go kosher.
More so than the basic laws of kashrut, like separating meat and dairy, no shellfish or pork products, etc., there’s a much deeper meaning I find in it all. In a world where everything is at our fingertips and you can have anything delivered within an hour, I find it invigorating to say no.
By keeping kosher, I choose everyday to make conscious decisions. The laws of kashrut have helped me take a second look at what I’m fueling my body with because I need to stop and always think, is this kosher? And the question that follows: is this a positive thing for my body?
On top of all this, I’ve learned self control, willpower, endurance, personal strength - whatever you want to call it. As a chubby kid, I had no clue what it was to say no. My parents would tell me “no, you can’t have that,” but I’d always find a way. It took me to adulthood to find a balance and the majority of that balance comes from Judaism.
When you choose to keep kosher later in life, it becomes more than just a lifestyle you were born into. It’s a decision you have to make everyday and for every single meal.
This point brings me to my next one: although I wouldn’t identify as religious, I do say I’m spiritual. As the years go on and I keep choosing to keep kosher, the self control I’ve learned and the willpower I’ve maintained has connected me to G-d, or at least a higher power, which I’m forever thankful for.
I can see the personal strength within me translated into other aspects of my life. The biggest one is deciding to make healthier habits and sticking with them. Recently, a friend of mine began the Whole30 diet and I joined her in support. Before I knew it, I had kept up with Whole30 for 5 weeks and I felt incredible. I’m sure in some part was due to the diet, but I also know it’s because I had the attitude to stick to it, which I know stems from kashrut.
There’s no way to tell where the journey will go from here, but I do owe my healthy relationship with food and my positive attitude in large part to my Judaism.