When I think of malnourishment, my mind usually skips to the food pyramid. I think about all the days I have way, way, waaaay less than 5 servings of fruit or vegetables. Thank goodness for Psyllium. And I think about how our ideas of a healthy diet are changing. To keto or not to keto?
But today I’ve been struck by the number of people I’ve seen in one week who are malnourished. When I look at their histories, I see similarities in their pasts. The sort of malnourishment they’ve suffered most from, is not one related to food.
I see the results of difficult childhoods. Malnourished childhoods. Childhoods where parents, damaged in various ways themselves, have been unable to provide their children with the tenderness, kindness, and the unconditional love they needed as children and young adults.
And then I think of my own feelings; the times I eat when I’m not hungry – when I’m eating to chase out boredom, or eating to drown emotions. Ever had that feeling where no matter what you eat, you never feel full?
When we grow up in difficult childhoods, to survive, we have to block out our emotions. We teach ourselves to ignore our needs. Especially when those needs are regularly ignored by the very people who are supposed to be taking care of us. We learn that what we feel is not important. What is important, is to survive.
There are so many choices we make to survive. Some of us forget. Others make excuses, or live in an alternate reality where we imagine ourselves or our parents to be other people. What we do have in common is an empty space. A hole that needs filling. And sometimes that hole seems most easily filled with food and alcohol.
When we come from difficult homes, we don’t have the tools necessary to adjust well to stress. When we don’t cope – our behaviors are judged and we are often shamed. If you’re like me, then you’re often your own worst judge. So when we turn to food, (your’s truly), or alcohol (I would if it weren’t for the enormous harm I’ve seen it cause), then we shame ourselves.
Our fat rolls become a symbol of our failure, and a drinking spree a confirmation that we are not enough.
These feelings are buried deep. We lock our deepest needs in the part of the brain that keeps the score – the limbic system. The trauma turns on a gene that increases inflammation and if we are eating too much sugar – we get fatty livers and diabetes. If we are drinking too much, we get hepatitis. And if we are unlucky, we get chronic pain.
I am so lucky to have a life where I’ve been exposed to the wisdom of teachers: (Jesus Christ. Mohammed. Buddhists.); the patience and resilience of my patients; my husband, who introduced me to Buddhism and mindfulness; and teachers I find on the internet and in books, they’ve helped me on my journey of healing.
It is a journey. The destination is not important. Every day I wake to tell myself I am strong enough. I am good enough. There are always doubts – but’s that’s okay.
Start with nourishing yourself. Feed yourself with the love that surrounds you. If you are open to it, the universe will feed you, and then you can feed love to others.
Wishing you an open heart to receive the love that is out there.
All the best