Bracha’s back! In the previous episode with Bracha, titled Searching for God in the Garbage (episode 69) we talked about her book.
In this episode we dive into her story and how she personally overcame food addictions and health problems through her understanding of spirituality and discovering meaning that helped her rise above her challenges.
Bracha covers this difficult topic with insight, wisdom and experience.
Some links mentioned in this article and episode:
Dirobi Products for weight loss, blood sugar management and lowered cholesterol (with Chromium GTF)
Not mentioned in the episode, but while you’re here make sure and get the amazing health guide “Formula 7, 7 Simple Principles for Phenomenal Health.” Instant download here!
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You can also download the episode here, or just read on!
Things looked good on the outside…
“My life was heading in a very successful direction when I was a student at Harvard and when I was studying in medical school. But the truth was even though outwardly my life seemed successful, inwardly I was really becoming more and more miserable as I had eating disorders at the time, anorexic behaviors and also binge eating. I fluctuate between the two. I’m starving myself and then eating out of control.”
I was really becoming more and more miserable until I went to Israel, the summer of my first year in medical school, I started studying about my heritage. It really filled something in my soul that was truly hungry. And what I found interesting was that my eating disorders just kind of very quickly evaporated at the time that my soul began to get the nourishment that it needed.
I didn’t even understand why my eating disorders were going away. Like I didn’t get that. But later, I would say about 10 years later when I discovered my diaries that I had kept from age 12 on and I saw the increasing desperation in my life, my search for meaning and my greater and greater feelings of meaninglessness and emptiness in my life. Then I began to see that there was a thread stretching throughout my life. And the thread that was getting stronger and stronger was that I was really hungry for spiritual nourishment so that it made sense. And when I put my memoir together, which is called searching for God and the garbage, it was a compilation of really all my diaries and journals that I kept with the years.
And it, it’s basically a case study and a psychological mystery that gets solved at the end when I discover that there was a spiritual basis to the eating disorders.
And I extrapolate from that, that there is really a spiritual basis to all addictions. And this is something that I’m really devoting my life to this now, spreading the word for all the people that can’t seem to overcome addictions no matter what they do.
In one of my recent childrens books I kind of distill the 12 steps down to a level that children can understand about how to break bad habits. If we don’t understand that there’s a spiritual basis to addictions, the problem keeps returning because the underlying emptiness is still there.
So I feel it’s essential for people to recognize that they are souls, souls that are housed inside bodies. And once we recognize that our souls need nourishment as well as our bodies, then we’re able to provide that nourishment for ourselves, then there’s no longer a need for the addictions because the addictions are that desperation. They are a desperate cry from the soul that is searching for pleasure.
Aren’t we ALL addicted to something?
It’s such a great story and I’m sure people listening can relate on some level. I’m on Judson brewer’s email lists, he’s the guy who helps people with various addictions, cigarette smoking is one of them. He also helps soldiers with PTSD. He has got a great ted talk if you haven’t heard of him.
One of the things in his new newsletter that caught my eye is a suggestion he made that we’re all addicted to something. And that resonated with me. I think on some level, it doesn’t have to be a major addiction like you’ve gone through, but we’ve all got our Achilles heel or our Kryptonite. I know I do.
This is a health show and one of the reasons why I invited you to be on the first place is because to me this is a really important health topic. And even a person without Anorexia or other very difficult health challenges to overcome has an addiction at some level. Do you agree with that?
I think that addictions are widespread now, tremendously widespread. I don’t know if everybody has an addiction. I think there are some really balanced people in this world, really happy people that are enjoying life.
But unfortunately it’s, it’s way too widespread. There’s a lot more misery than there needs to be. And I think that life is really supposed to be a pleasurable experience. And that’s something that really gets forgotten often.
We think that we’re here to struggle and struggling is a really important part of life and we can get joy from our struggles as well.
Life is supposed to be pleasurable!
But the ultimate thing is that life is supposed to be a pleasure and, and we have the capacity to make our lives pleasurable. It’s not dependent on other people. Like we, if a person’s not in a relationship with a significant other, they don’t have to be waiting around for that to bring them pleasure.
They can always go out and bring pleasure into their lives. For instance, people can always find others who are lonelier than we are. It’s always possible. And when we reach out and help other people, that brings us spiritual joy. It brings us a lasting pleasure that lasts a lot longer than a bag of potato chips. You know? So I think that when we recognize that we’re all spiritual beings in need of spiritual pleasure, then when we feel like over eating, which is a really common addiction, I feel like one of the main questions that person can ask even in the midst of overeating is this question, is it my body that’s hungry or my soul? If they can, if a person can focus up question to the forefront of their minds, it becomes, it can become a habit with me.
So… is my BODY hungry or is it my SOUL?
It’s a habit so ingrained already that I just naturally think like that. It Doesn’t happen often, but if I’m ever in a situation where I feel like overeating, I just think, oh wait, is it my soul that needs pleasure right now or is my body really hungry? Because it’s, if your body isn’t hungry then it’s just overeating. It’s unnecessary. And it’s really your soul that is looking for pleasure at that time. Like maybe you’re in a place where it’s just you’re feeling uncomfortable so a person just keeps eating, you know, but instead that means that’s a sign to go up get up and do something different because your soul is seeking more pleasure, it’s genuinely hungry and things you can do is just step outside and, and breathe in some nature or go some place, listen to music you love, start stretching, started dancing or visiting somebody in a nursing home, calling or texting someone that’s lonely. In, just one moment, when a person recognizes that it’s really their sould that’s hungry and not their body, they can think of an infinite number of ways to bring more pleasure into their lives. Lasting pleasure. So that’s, that’s something that I’m recommending that I really think could help so many people.
Excellent. So many good points in there. I am still sticking to my guns on the “everyone’s addicted to something.” I’ll tell you what I bet 60% of Americans are addicted to sugar and those who think they aren’t, I challenge them to go without it for just one week and then come back and report. So yeah, totally agree with you. Myself included. I’m not on my high horse here saying that I have overcome all of my personal challenges. But Bracha you would be proud of me. Why? I went to my first meditation retreat a couple of weeks ago and it was called Soul Craft. It was specifically the whole point and purpose of it was to work on the soul.
it was so excellent. I was so glad I went. I came home on a real high, I felt so happy. I just came home on a whole new level.
Yes. And you can infuse that into your life every day. I’m sure you do. I’m sure you’re the kind of person that does because every day can be an awesome pleasure. It’s awesome to go to these inspirational things because it helps us, it elevates us so much and it’s important to take away from them too and just infuse it into our lives at daily lives because it changes us. It elevates everything. It makes us more conscious that we are spiritual beings. Cause that’s, that’s the essence of who we are. And it’s easy to forget that because we live in a physical world. But that’s the challenge that we have to keep remembering that we’re spiritual beings housed in bodies that we need to take care of in order for the soul to be able to shine as well. It’s essential.
There were many things that we accept as reality, like gravity, like time, like feelings. These are not things that you could see or touch. And yet we believe in them and there’s a part of us that is aware that our brain is thinking, that’s aware that our feelings are feeling. And yet that part of us that is aware of this is not our brain. It’s not our heart, it’s our essence. It’s something. And I believe that’s our soul. There’s a part of us that is distinctly us and is even aware that we’re thinking and what is that part of us? That’s our soul.
So what are the methods that you teach?
Right. Well, it applies to any addiction, just like you’re saying, because the reason why people develop addictions is to put comfort over a pain that’s deep within. So it provides a temporary comfort. It provides a temporary pleasure. So the only way to overcome that is to put greater pleasure into one’s life than the pleasure that the addiction is providing. So, and the only way to provide greater pleasure is to have it be a spiritual pleasure because that is greater, deeper, and more lasting than any other pleasure. So this to me is a very simple truth and it’s part of the 12 steps. I mean, spirituality is a major part of the 12 steps. It’s that recognition that there is no greater pleasure than spiritual pleasure.
So the more we incorporate that into our lives, the more it fills our life, the less the addiction’s our lives. And it just so simple. It just works like that. As we fill our lives with more and more spiritual pleasures, then there’s less need for an addiction. And it just evaporates that easily and it evaporates through pleasure and there’s no real struggle involved with that. As we add more joy into our lives, there’s less need for the addiction.
Dave: How about meditation as a means of spiritual connection?
Addictions are kind of distractions from what people are suffering. It covers up the suffering a person may be going through. And so it’s useful in that way, but then it makes life unbearable when the person gets more and more into their addiction. And so it’s to do just what you’re saying to focus and to simplify life and focus again on the pleasures. Addicts of all types, whether drug addicts, alcohol, pornography, whatever the addiction is, a person can bring, again, the lasting pleasures into their lives. The simple joys of life, the more and more they will life with that, they just won’t have that need for those things that take them away and disconnect them from soul. As they strengthen their connection with their soul. and then these things that really bring a person down, they’ll be taking up less time and energy in the person’s life.
So it again, it’s just a way to just simply bring more of the wonders of nature back into lives, appreciation and gratitude. No matter how miserable a person’s life is, they still have things that can be grateful for. And when a person is feeling gratitude in one moment, they’re not feeling miserable or angry. They can’t feel those two emotions at the same time. So the more time that a person spends being grateful, the less time they can spend with negative emotions. And one of the things people can do is practice gratitude. An exercise that people can do is just start imagining losing all the things that a person has in their life. You start with outward things and you move closer and closer inward.
Like the person’s job, their house, their family, their arms and legs, their eyes. And then you bring the back into your life and you get them again. Oh my gosh, I have eyes, I have a digestive system that works. You know, I have legs that move and a person gets filled with overwhelming gratitude for all these gifts returned to one’s life that they have, you know? So everybody that’s breathing right now has something… They’re all breathing. You know, so everybody has things which they can be tremendously grateful for. So again, just the more time we spend focusing on joy and bringing joy into our lives and we have the ability to do it, it’s not dependent on any other person. We have the control to let our souls shine. Yes, through meditation, through spending time in nature, to giving to other people through focusing on gratitude, there’s infinite number of ways to do it.
When you say pleasure, pleasure is a two edge sword. There are short term pleasures that feel really good in the moment but could cause long term harm. Can you flesh that out?
This world was created for pleasure, not only spiritual pleasures, but the physical pleasures. Everything in this world could have been gray. There was no need for color. All of this is done for our pleasure or the physical pleasures are done for our pleasure, like food, it didn’t have to taste great. Everything could have been exactly the same bland, horrible taste, and we could have survived. But God made things to taste incredibly different. These are physical pleasures and are real and, and the pleasure between interactions, between people. These are all genuine pleasures. And um, the only thing is we, we can get stuck on that level because we can start to think that we’re just physical beings.
Speaker 4: (37:28)
But really this was made for our pleasure to reach even higher levels. Once we experienced these physical pleasures, then we can move onto creative pleasures, intellectual pleasures, and then the highest is spiritual pleasures. These are the pleasures that last the longest. And all of the physical pleasures are stepping stones in helping us to reach states of joy. Those are all necessary and very much a part of life. It didn’t have to be this way. This also can fill us with tremendous gratitude, how beautiful our natural world is. So the physical pleasures are real, but they do not last forever, but they’re an outer layer of our soul. And as we get deeper in there are deeper levels that we could reach and it all brings us to a higher state, or brings us to have our unique souls shine in the most beautiful way, by taking on in all these different types of pleasures that exist in the world.
Now, I want you to get more specific for those people listening who like what you’re saying and the whole concept sounds appealing and it makes sense. What are some practical takeaways? Some advice, maybe some daily habits or weekly habits. What are some of the ways that people could apply some new new habit or or activity into their life to accomplish what you’re saying?
Speaker 4: (39:16)
I kind of said it but I, but it’s an awareness. It’s an awareness. Like whenever a person is involved in their addiction, let’s say they’re involved in their addiction all they have to do, is try to have an awareness that, oh, this is showing that I need more pleasure in my life. I need more lasting pleasure in my life. And when they develop that awareness, then it’s again, is it my body that’s hungry or myself? Even in that moment, this is the most amazing thing. They don’t have to actually do the activity, the spiritual activity that brings more light to their thoughts. They can even just think about it and suddenly they are not as attracted and craving their addiction as before. Let’s say a person is just sitting and mindlessly eating this big bag of potato chips and feeling anxiety or feeling lonely or feeling bored and suddenly they get this awareness in their head, wait a minute, why am I doing this?
Speaker 4: (40:29)
I mean like, I need more pressure in my life, obviously. Is it this next potato chip going to give it to me? So I need more pleasure in my life, so maybe I should just text this person I haven’t texted in long time and reach out to them. Just thinking about it or even just think of doing it or just listening to music that will get them to feel like stretching. Or the funny thing is that they don’t even have to do the action. Just the thought in the head is actually making a synapse going to a different part of their brain. It’s kind of from the Amygdala in the back of the brain, which is feeling the anxiety or fear.
Speaker 4: (41:18)
It switches to the prefrontal cortex and it starts thinking on a higher level about different things that it could do. So suddenly a person is moving up into a higher consciousness and they start thinking of greater ways to achieve, to bring the pleasure into their life that the addiction is showing they actually need. And addiction is messaging us that we need more pleasure in our lives. Thats what it’s doing. It’s there to message us that we need more pleasure. It’s genuine. We really do have a craving for more pleasure. But that craving is coming from the soul. It’s not from our body. We’re not really hungry. We don’t need the bag of potato chips. We are hungry. We are really hungry, but it’s for spiritual pleasures. So even just thinking about it, suddenly the bag of potato chips, I say it won’t be calling the person’s name as loudly as before, just by thinking those higher thoughts. So the more we can put this into people’s consciousness, it becomes a habit after a while and a person isn’t drawn to those things that are not healthy for them, they’re no longer pulled in that direction.
Okay, that’s excellent. Now of course have been on your own personal health journey and the ups and downs and emotional turmoil that goes with going through what you went through. But now you’re living a healthy lifestyle and this is a health show. I want to ask you a couple questions about your own health habits. First of all, what is your favorite healthy breakfast?
Shakes in the morning. I have banana shakes. Smoothies. Like bananas shakes with nuts thrown in, some lemon juice, flax seed and anything else like raisins, whatever I feel like throwing into it, you know, I have like two bananas and, and the nuts and all this stuff and throw in everything. It’s so delicious. That’s my favorite breakfast.
Okay. Excellent. How about a favorite healthy lunch?
Okay. I like basically yogurts and salad. That’s what I like for lunch.
Yeah. Okay. And what do you do for yogurt?
Kefir and Stonyfield yogurts. I love those too.
Dinner is often what have around. I love Salmon. Yeah. Usually salmon with whatever else we have here. I eat less for dinner actually. More for lunch and breakfast, like I just have like a light dinner. We have some type of salad and vegetable with salmon or a piece of chicken sometimes. Things like that, you know.
Okay. How about exercise? What do you do to keep fit?
Oh, every day I do yoga. Yeah. Yoga exercises
And do you do that at home or do you go to a studio?
Oh, I go to the community center where they have classes.
Yeah. Nice. And thats seven days a week, five days a week?
Oh, six days a week. And on the Sabbath, the community center is closed, the Jewish community center, and my husband and I do it together at home.
Okay. And does he do that just once a week with you or does he come to some of the weekly weekday ones as well?
Yeah, he goes also to weekly classes.
Wow. You guys got the yoga thing going on. We’re seeing more and more men in yoga classes. They’re starting to get the memo.
My husband actually got the classes started at the community center. So yeah, we’ve been doing it now for 10 years.
Wow. Well that is awesome. And Bracha, you’ve covered a lot of ground today. Is there anything we’ve we didn’t talk about that you want to touch on before I let you go?
Speaker 4: (46:34)
I was just happy that my book was published, because it gives me a platform to be able to speak about this. And this is what I feel one of the reasons that I’m here in life to spread the word, that we’re spiritual beings. I love spreading this message and I feel that the more people understand this, then addictions will decrease tremendously as we recognize this and my children’s books as well. I try to write the books I wished I could have read as a child because I wasn’t brought up like with a spiritual understanding. My parents were wonderful, loving parents, but they didn’t have the spiritual understanding. And I would say my father was agnostic. You know, he didn’t believe in God. He didn’t know one way or the other if God exists or not but that’s where he was at. And I was brought up that way and I’m really thrilled to have a sense of meaningfulness in my life now and I just want to share this fulfillment with other people in whatever way that can enrich their lives, you know, and, and help their souls to shine.
Yeah, that’s excellent. And I love that phrase, help people’s souls to shine. It’s a beautiful concept.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.