Are You Having Trouble With Your Diet? Are There Eating Concerns?
Many missionaries grow up in a culture in which concern about body image is extreme. The eating disorders that sometimes result can become a life threatening health hazard. Even when eating problems don’t reach this level, those interested in eating healthy may find that hard to do while serving a full-time mission. This can be particularly difficult when serving in cultures where overeating, or eating in an unhealthy way, is the norm. Following are a few suggestions that may help when facing this kind of problem.
1. In the case where too much of the wrong kind of food is offered, you can use an “I” message to ask for cooperation; e.g., “Thank you so much for offering (the second helping); but I have been having some stomach issues and, as much as I would like to, I just can’t eat any more”. In a similar way you can ask to be excused from eating anything that your system has trouble digesting. You still may get the sense that you are offending your hosts, or they may chide you for being too thin or too concerned about your weight. Even so, with a smile and relaxed attitude about it; usually there is no damage done.
2. Ask for your companion’s cooperation in keeping fast foods and unhealthy snacks to a minimum. Again, use an “I” message, not a “you” message; i.e., I have a problem and need your help; not you have a problem and you need to change.
3. Work with your companion to develop a meal plan for the week before shopping. Make certain that healthy foods are included to the extent possible.
4. Do your best to avoid food fetishes or too much concern about how much you weigh and what your diet is doing to you. Often times, worry about what you are eating is worse on your body than a less than ideal diet. There will be plenty of time to lose weight or better manage your diet when you are back home and have better resources and more control over your environment. In the meantime, do the best you can and trust the Lord to bless you physically as well as spiritually.
5. Remember that when you look in the mirror there is an excellent chance that you see a heavier and less attractive person than others see. Common perceptual distortion makes that true for most of us.
6. Take healthy snacks with you when you are out and about and don’t go too long before eating something. You may need to check in with your Mission President and/or parents if healthy snacks are hard to afford and/or not available in your area. They may have suggestions that can help.
7. If you have had an eating disorder in the past, or your eating concerns are extreme (purging, can’t keep food down, losing weight, etc.), talk to your Mission President. He may suggest professional help.
8. Do your very best to focus on why you are serving your mission; which in large part is to serve Him who has sacrificed so much for you. The more you can focus on the many very good reasons you are where you are doing what you are doing; and the more you can focus on others rather than yourself, the better you will feel and, in general, the healthier you will be.
Dr. Gary G. Taylor