It can be challenging to nourish our bodies while serving cross-culturally. There might be new foods that require an adjustment, new ways of shopping for groceries, and resources that are no longer available. As we start off our discussion about our bodies this week, we asked our Instagram team to share their ideas, thoughts and struggles related to their physical care on the field. Add your own ideas and thoughts in the comments and we can all learn from each other!
Katelyn C: Before moving to a tiny island, I had grand visions of eating fresh fruits and fish and getting really healthy. After moving here, I’ve realized that things aren’t that easy. Food, even locally grown food, is expensive. Exercise in the heat feels impossible. Eating out cheap and unhealthy food has often been an unhealthy way we cope with the stresses here. My goals for this year are to: stop rewarding myself with food and to get active at least 3 days a week!
Rachel K: You know how they say that exercising makes you feel good because it releases endorphins? Well, maybe I’m allergic…it always makes me feel miserably tired, hot, and hungry. I don’t like exercising, but I know I need it. I have found some compromise in holy yoga: moving and breathing in deliberate ways, stretching and balancing, flexing and relaxing, all while someone reads Scripture and prays over me. I have tight hamstrings and insufficient upper body strength, but YouTube never comments on my form. I turn on 2 fans, roll out my yoga mat on top of a couple of area rugs (the floor is so hard), and spend some time praying and exercising. And I actually do feel good afterwards.
Spring D: This last year for me has been a journey in finding ways to nourish my body. I started with exercising 5 days a week for an hour with a group of local ladies. I got stronger, but my weight stayed the same. I felt like I was in a funk. I think that the one thing that was motivating me (the number on the scale) wasn’t enough to help me maintain the nourishment. I was recently listening to a podcast where the woman spoke about her goal weight, and how even when she reached it, she still found things wrong with her body. She said she realized that it was a thing in her mind first. I am recognizing the same about me. I am trying to change the way I look at my body and accept that it is a process. I need to be thankful for the changes that are happening. I am focusing on meal by meal eating better. I am also recognizing that I enjoy chocolate. I am not going to cut it out of my diet. Tea is probably my final and most favorite way to nourish my body. I have one cup of green tea a day, followed by multiple non-caffeinated cups.
Dani F: Living in Southeast Asia can be hard on the body, especially during hot season. One way I take care of myself when the temperatures hit triple digits is by having something to look forward to when I come home after work. I sit in my bedroom, the only room in my apartment with A/C, turn on the air, indulge in a good snack, challenge myself to drink a ginormous bottle of water, and watch a good tv show. I also try to do short workout videos I find on YouTube that are only ten to fifteen minutes long telling myself I can endure the sweat and heat for just ten minutes.
Dorette S: I’ve always been fascinated by the human body. I spent years studying it, then worked as a Physical Therapist and spent a good chunk of my free time training for endurance races. How I wish someone had told me that the most important thing when it comes to your own body is learning to listen to it. All the knowledge or practical experience in the world won’t help you much if you only start paying attention when the ‘sirens’ go off and you’re burned out, in pain or in bed with the flu. I feel like a beginner, but I’m slowly learning to read the smaller signs and notice the subtle changes. Like feeling bloated after eating certain types of food or how exercise affects my mood and energy levels. I’m also learning to recognize the connection between emotional triggers and physical sensations and how to be more sensitive to the discomfort caused by incorrect posture. This new sense of self -awareness helps me to make the necessary changes on a daily basis, instead of thinking ‘tomorrow’ I’ll start taking better care of myself.
Megan S: I think one of the biggest things I have learned about taking care of my body (especially in my host country) is to really listen to it. I was an athlete all the way through college and while I learned how to listen to my body, I also learned how to ignore it well. While living overseas I have learned that if I have a headache or stomach ache, I really need to rest and figure out what is wrong so I don’t ignore something serious. It has been hard to also listen to my mental health. The first year I was here, I focused mostly on my job and surviving but when I came out of that stage I remembered that for my mental health I needed to exercise. I had a hard time adjusting to the weather (uggg humidity) and the culture but I have now built in routines to go running and walking with people. It was hard to give up the flexibility that I had to exercise in my passport country (I could go running when and where I wanted without sticking out), but I have learned that others are willing to go with me if I make myself available and I will stick out no matter what I am doing (so I might as well be out exercising). I love the community building it has also become.
Thank you to the ladies of our Instagram team for sharing honestly with us! What have you tried as you have learned to nourish your body?