What Passover Looks Like When You’re in Recovery from an Eating Disorder

Lucie Waldman

On Passover, we begin the seder by posing the question, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The answer is that we are eating different foods, allowing ourselves to rest, and not eating bread.

But the holiday of Passover is not about the food itself.

It’s the symbolism of the food that matters. It’s the new beginnings, not the calories or macros. It’s remembering the suffering of our ancestors and how they found freedom – how excited they were to cross the Red Sea, likely not counting the steps throughout their journey.

The holiday is about remembrance, the journey, and, most of all, finding freedom. It’s about remembering where we have come and where we are going. And just like my ancestors, I am on my own journey to freedom – the freedom from my food rules and the way I think about my body.  

In the past, I’ve been intimidated by Passover, especially by the course of the meal and by dietary restrictions that have led to my fear of bread. This year, as a person in recovery, I know that if I were to stop eating bread, I would continue to be beholden to my eating disorder.

I know that, at its core, this holiday isn’t about fearing bread or eliminating food, it’s about freedom. If finding freedom from my eating disorder requires me to participate differently in the holiday of Passover, I know it is what I have to do.

And so, when I ask myself, “Why is tonight different from all other nights?” my answer might not be the same as everyone else’s. But it is still focused on freedom.

For me, this night is different from all other nights because I have to adjust my meal plan and still give myself permission to eat – to even eat more than usual, even. It is different from all other night because I have different exposures. 

But it is also different from all other nights – and so many of the Passovers before it – because I can now focus on my commitment to finding my freedom and to looking to the future.

I will always remember what it felt like to feel enslaved by my eating disorder, all the Passovers I missed while in treatment. This year, though, I can focus on freedom, enjoying a meal with my family for the first time in years – a meal where my mind is free, too, no longer consumed by numbers. 

Dayenu means “It would’ve been enough,” and truly, it would’ve been enough just to celebrate this holiday again. It’s all the more special, though, to celebrate this holiday while finding my own kind of freedom.

If, like me, you are in recovery, I encourage you to celebrate the holiday however you need to in order to find and pursue your own freedom.

Dance your heart out with your timbrels; you deserve a life outside of your eating disorder. Eat the Passover brownies; the holiday is about more than the numbers. Let yourself rest and recline; you deserve a day outside of exercise. 

Here’s to finding freedom, even when it seems impossible. And here’s to doing the impossible, because if the Passover story taught us anything, it’s that miracles are indeed possible.

Just like the parting of the Red Sea, your existence is a miracle – so make sure you celebrate that, too.