Is one halachically allowed to be fat (overweight or obese), or must a fat person take steps to reduce their weight and maintain a reasonably healthy body (and likewise, a healthy person must not allow themselves to gain weight to an unhealthy degree), due to shmirat hanefesh?

Inspired by the recent shmirat hanefesh questions regarding smoking and marijuana

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    Technically, a person should do what he can to be healthy. There are degrees of "fat" and "overweight" that are not necessarily unhealthy. BMI (Body Mass Index) is a more reliable factor than numeric weight, and even with that, you'd have to consider many other health factors in a person. Wrestlers and body builders / weight lifters would probably be considered "overweight" but they are usually not "unhealthy". It is also interesting to note that the Gemarah mentions several fat rabbis, but I'm unaware that they mention anyone telling them that it's "unallowable". Just an FYI not proof.
    – DanF
    Jul 21, 2014 at 15:08
  • @DanF Good point
    – user5540
    Jul 21, 2014 at 16:09
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    Shulchan aruch, and, I think the Gemarrah, as well, cautions against "Achilah gassah" - loosely translated as "excessive eating". Rambam also says (have to locate place) that one should eat only enough to have strength to perform mitzvot. Neither source directly relates overeating to obesity, though. We know, medically, now, that overeating is one cause of obesity.
    – DanF
    Jul 21, 2014 at 16:19
  • There were Tanaaim who were quite fat. It was a sign of wealth in earlier times.
    – Baby Seal
    Jul 23, 2014 at 5:30

1 Answer 1


There is a basic halacha of "Ushmartem es nafshosechem" - loosely translated to mean that a person is obligated to maintain their body in good health. The reason for this is twofold:

Firstly, your body is only yours on loan from Hashem, and just as a shomer is obligated to guard and protect an object given to him for safekeeping, so too a person has to protect his body and ensure it is in excellent condition. Since obesity is destructive to a person's well being, being obese, or for that matter not taking action to keep your body healthy, would be in violation of "Ushmartem es nafshosechem" as you are being derelict in your duties as a shomer.

Secondly, keeping Torah and Mitzvot requires vigour and enthusaism, and a perpetual sense of "Ivdoo es Hashem Besimcha". These requirements are often compromised when one is obese or unhealthy, which may lead to lethargy and melancholy, both which will adversely affect ones avodat Hashem besimcha.

These above comments can be added to if we take into account chassidic aspects of indulgence in food. Put simply, there is a basic doctrine of "hiskafya", which simply means self-restraint. That is, restraining ones self from excessive eating for purely pleasure, rather than eating for maintaining ones health. There is a well known chassidic saying: "What is forbidden - is forbidden. And what is permissable - is not necessarily to be done".

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    I think you mean "ונשמרתם מאוד, לנפשותיכם" - Venishmartem Meod Lenafshosechem" - as the "posuk" you quote doesn't seem to exist. (Devorim 4:15) Jul 22, 2014 at 13:04
  • While your deduction is plausible, it doesn't appear to be a direct halacha. As I stated in a previous comment, the Gemarrah doesn't seem to indicate any prohibition against obesity and actually describes, maybe mockingly at times, the obesity of some rabbanim.
    – DanF
    Jul 22, 2014 at 18:47

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