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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Rightly Nourishing The World -- One Mouthful At A Time!

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.
Mother Teresa

George Herbert was credited as stating: "Whatsoever was the father of a disease, an ill dyet was the mother." [Jacula Prudentum]. Presently, I spend most of my time ministering to people who struggle with obesity/being overweight, people trying to learn how to lead healthier lifestyles, and folks needing advice on how to change their diets to rectify symptoms of diet/poor-fitness related maladies or to improve their health. This statement of Herbert, a 17th century English country parson and 'doctor', reverberates in my mind, time and again. Obesity is truly a form of MALNUTRITION that causes tremendous bodily damage and needs proper treatment and attention to resolve it and its sequelae.

BUT, lately, as I view horrific images being telecasted on TV and posted online, I am STARKLY and SADLY reminded of what this statement means, but from the opposite reality. The vivid depictions of people, especially children, suffering from the malnutrition of hunger and UNDERNUTRITION -- marasmus and kwashiorkor or the M-K mix -- has moved me beyond tears. In the course of my practice, I have attended to undernourished people while working in hospitals, volunteering at orphanages in developing countries, working as a consultant for the UNHCR -- people living in very poor areas/conditions, students, refugees, those suffering from diseases or conditions that cause an inability to eat,digest,absorb,or excrete nutrients. But, watching a WHOLE POPULATION of people, born with otherwise healthy, functional bodies literally wasting and ravaging away because of the natural famine and drought BUT, ALSO because of not having food aid being delivered to them because of corruption -- well -- it's devastated me to the core. I felt I HAD to DO SOMETHING!

And so, I'm fasting.

That's right -- I am fasting right now. I will most likely drop a few pounds, but that is not my primary reason for fasting. I am a nutritionist -- a dietitian -- remember?! Fasting is not really something I recommend for busy, active people as it can set them up for all kinds of untoward repercussions -- light-headedness, fainting, fatigue, nausea, constipation, dehydration -- as well as lowering one's metabolic rate and rebound bingeing and fat gain -- an ESPECIALLY destructive process if you try fasting as a quick fix to losing weight.

But, sometimes in life, one is just compelled to throw away all the 'wisdom' of the most studied and sensible, and DO what NEEDS TO BE DONE! And, for me, after seeing the images of the emaciated, wasting children in Somalia -- crying and posturing in pain -- I just KNEW my prayers were not enough. I felt DRIVEN to add FASTING to my plea to the God of Creation to, somehow, intervene, to alleviate the suffering of the beautiful people in Somalia.

I am not a politician, a world leader, an influential person, or a saint. I'm just a normal person who wants to help, in my small way, to show these people I care and I love them. Oh, they may not see or know me or what I'm doing at all, but I truly believe that offering up the sacrifice of my true hunger, my NEED to fuel my body, my JOY in eating and food -- offering up my own discomfort -- WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.


In practical terms, I have calculated that I would've spent, this week, about 58 GBPs or the equivalent of $89.60 on my food intake. So, I have sent a $100 donation to Action Against Hunger for their effort to supply nutritious food in Somalia. I hope this helps. I am going to try to continue to eat less after this week of fasting is over, and donate the continued 'savings' of my food expenditures, for as long as I can.

I also want to help try, in my own small way, to set a precedent for doing what it takes to end the travesty of the co-existing malnutrition of obesity and undernutrition. That is, if MORE people in the wealthier countries COULD and WOULD eat less and decrease the obesity epidemic -- which is draining so much money, time, and efforts from medical and public health organizations, private industry resources, governments, personal resources -- then we MIGHT have more resources and be able to MORE EFFICIENTLY and EXPEDIENTLY respond to undernutrition, famine, and drought in the world.
When I say 'set a precedent', I mean, mainly for myself, but if it serves as an example to others, then, so be it.

I'm fasting because I CARE about people who are emaciated and suffering on the other side of the world. I WANT them to know they are not forgotten or unloved or unwanted. As Mother Teresa stated above -- THIS is actually the GREATER issue here. I'm trying, in my own small way, which, by the way, is paltry and SO insufficient compared to THEIR reality -- to show solidarity with them, in their pain. Of course, I am unworthy to truly share in their pain and suffering, not REALLY experiencing it as they do, but I'm fasting for them and I'm trusting God will do the rest in passing my love and concern and 'message' to them.

You know, I was the kid who wanted to change the world -- well, at least the aspects of the world related to the capacity I was becoming somewhat proficient in, as a dietitian and nutritionist. When I was in college, I started a group called N.E.E.D. -- Nutrition Education for Equitable Development! We would go into poor neighborhoods in the city with our notepads and flip-charts and lots of fresh food as well as canned and packed goods. We would hand out all the food and feed the people while explaining all about good nutrition, eating healthy on a budget, shopping tips, etc. This activity and group dissolved once we all started needing to focus our attention to organic chemistry, foods and nutrition, statistics, economics and for me, what was probably the hardest course I've ever taken in life -- 'Basic Clothing Construction'! You see, my BSc was in HOME ECONOMICS-Dietetics! I couldn't and STILL cannot hardly sew buttons properly, let alone make skirts, dresses, slacks, and even a jacket, I believe from scratch! For me, almost hopeless! Shortly after I, thankfully, graduated -- I had plans to go to India with a priest who worked with Mother Teresa there. I organized a whole concert to raise money for Hunger Awareness and Donations to Third World countries. Harry Chapin performed!! I truly thought I was on my way!

It wasn't meant to be. I didn't have the money required to go to India. Father Brady (the priest) told me to work a bit, earn the money, and then come on over. Well, the time and these plans were side-swept by 'life'. Working in hospitals led to more work in hospitals and then grad school and then specializing in pediatric nutrition and then more work in hospitals, private practice, teaching, more grad work, post-grad work, research, working in industry, marriage, moving abroad, children, family responsibilities, and more grad work, teaching, and private practice.

BUT, I'm still ME. I think those words, above, of Mother Teresa, who I heard personally utter, as I sat in an audience hearing her speak -- have made me realize that I ended up being exactly where I needed to be. Throughout the course of my professional and personal life, I have come to realize that there ARE all kinds of human hungers and poverty MUCH GREATER than actual physical poverty and hunger and it was my place to be wherever God wanted me to be to serve Him and the world, in the ways I have TRIED to serve -- to the best of my ability. Sometimes, the 'wealthiest' of clients and patients I have come across, have been the most damaged, lonely, and devastated in and by life.

And so, I continue to pray and obey. But, today, as I said above -- this is not enough! It is time for me to deny myself one of my greatest pleasures and joys in life -- eating and food. It's not noble or admirable of me in any way. It is simply necessary and the way I want to try to show my love and respect for my beautiful brothers and sisters of Somalia. And, of course, most importantly I seek to obey God's call and to glorify Him with thanks and love for all the blessings of this world.

The people of Somalia AND the people I see and deal with every day, in the course and scope of my practice, AS I, too -- have beautiful and efficient bodies. I just want to be an instrument, in whatever ways I can, to optimally and rightly nourish the world -- perhaps ONE MOUTHFUL AT A TIME. I pray that as I fast and deny each mouthful I NEED and DESIRE, may a mouthful somewhere in Somalia be fed with blessed relief and pleasure -- may a mouthful of an obese person somewhere in the world be fed with nutritious and optimal food for their body's needs.

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