Freedom of Choice

What would you say if I told you that you could only eat at 11am today? What if your only choice was a hotdog, baked beans, chips, and cookies? This is your only choice. Eat this or starve.

What would you chose?

I really struggled with this throughout the week in Atlanta, beginning with our service at Action Ministries Soup Kitchen the first day. We were told that our job would include helping to cook and serve a hot meal to women and children that morning for lunch. When we got there and discovered what we would be serving my dietetic mind began to scream. How could I serve these women and young children a meal with processed meat, canned beans, and absolutely no fruits or vegetables with a smile on my face? This may have been the only meal these people would have the opportunity to eat all day, or if they were able to hide some leftovers as they left the kitchen they might get to eat it twice. And yet we were serving them  very little nutrition per bite. But that is all the organization had the resources for. This breaks my heart.

And then my mind began to roll. What if this were me? Most of these women were educated and simply victims of circumstance. As my mom pointed out to me one night on the phone, this could happen to anyone. And so I began to question myself…

Would I be able to eat this meal knowing it was pretty low in nutrition but it was my only option? The ED in my head resisted answering yes to this question. I have trouble now eating things I am not comfortable with. But I have the option of saying no because I know that I can make myself something else later.

Good thing God had a plan for me to explore this issue more and more. Thanks to this trip I experienced a small amount of lack of choice in my food. I had no say as to when our group ate meals or where we ate them. O people are hungry on the drive to Atlanta? OK let’s stop at Bojangles. You can only imagine what I am thinking. Except I was too quick to judge and it is a good thing I had an open mind because I was able to find something on the menu that I would willingly eat, and I actually enjoyed it. But it gets better. Meal times were set, eat then or really you don’t have any other time to eat. Meals were simple and not my normal. Breakfast offerings: cereal, grits, toast… none of which I typically eat in the morning. Lunch: lunch meat, cheese, bread, chips, and cookies. Where are the veggies??? Of course I did bring some food (nut butter packets, larabars, almonds, and walnuts…) but I really wanted to get the most out of this experience so I made every effort to eat what was offered and as little of “Shannon food” as possible. That means I had to be very flexible people. I had to talk myself through a few meals, but you know what I came out on the other side healthy and happy despite it all.

But honestly my small amount of lack of choice is nothing compared to the lack of choice the people I served endure every day. I was able to push through because I knew that in a week I would be back to eating my favorite foods in the comfort of my kitchen. But what if for the rest of my life I was limited to the foods of this week? What if there were days when I did not know if I would be able to feed myself?

Now every time I sit down for my meal that I have likely stressed way too much over I am reminded of the people I served this week in Atlanta. Did they eat today? What I wouldn’t give to invite them to my table to cook them a healthy meal. Every meal is a constant reminder that so many people in this world do not have a choice in what they eat, where they eat, or when they eat. I do, and for that I am grateful.

I am blessed. I have the freedom to chose. I can stress out over the what I will eat and not the if I will eat.

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19 thoughts on “Freedom of Choice

  1. Wow, Shannon. This is quite a reminder about how blessed we really are. I think it’s absolutely amazing that you handled your challenges SO WELL (incredibly proud of you for that!!)….take a moment to look how far you’ve come. You can recognize how blessed you are to have the choice in what you eat/when you eat…you recognized that in a difficult situation where that was taken away and you made the choice to go with it, even though it wasn’t easy/necessarily what you wanted to do at the time. And you are giving the rest of us a chance to think and restructure some thoughts about our own lives and blessings…thank you hun ❤

    • I hope everyone was able to take what you seem to have taken from this girl. I really wish so many people could experience the discomforts and insecurities I did last week because it really put things in perspective and gave me even more to stride towards in life. Next time someone asks me what I am grateful for I can always remember this trip and the things I learned about myself and the world around me. I think sometimes we live so comfortably in our own lives that we forget that it really could just be temporary. We have to be ready for our comforts to change with our situations

  2. This is so TRUE. A biggest part of my recovery process was working with certain populations that had little to no choice in their lives, their health, their future. By supporting others, I was able to get out of myself and realize the self centered nature of ED and was disgusted by it. I no longer wanted to be thinking about MY food and body when others would do anything to have ANY food and a healthy body. So glad you overcame challenges and were able to experience a life outside of ED.

    • It really made me see the reality of how distorted an ED thought can be and how it takes over the mind so drastically. I really think there would have been a time when even if what I was offered was my only option I would have said no because the ED wouldn’t let me. Now I am able to fight that.

  3. This is amazing. I’ve actually turned down opportunities like this before because I was afraid of not having food to eat. Not even just in my ED days, but for most of my life. That makes me sound selfish. And it really is. Here we are, with plenty of food to eat at our own convenience and I can’t even bring myself to eat something I’ve never tried, or I don’t like. God forbid I don’t get my massive plate of green beans at dinner; it’s like the world is ending. I think you learned a lot on this trip. More than you even realize. It forced you to get out of your comfort zone even though it may have been terrifying and not exactly embraced at times. You did it and you came out stronger than when you went in.

    • I hope the next time you have an opportunity for an opportunity like this you take it. Because it really does put things in perspective. I now have another weapon against those awful ED thoughts that like to try to creep in every so often. For that I am forever grateful. There was a time that I would have chosen no food over what was offered. Even if it meant starving like some of these people would if they didn’t come to the kitchen that day. That is crazy to me now. How can I think like that. How can I be so ambitious and yet not chose life just because of something so simple (but not so simple as you know) as food

  4. this is great perspective to have gained. it is important to go out of your comfort zone and let go of the ‘shannon safe food’. you can’t cling to safe food for your whole life, that is no way of living. we are lucky we have the choice to buy that safe food but really it is still just letting the ed win

  5. Isn’t it amazing how experiences like this can put things in perspective for us? I can’t belittle the illogical fears that come with an ED because I know how very real and colossal they feel to a person who’s suffering with the disease, but in the grand scheme of things, worrying about whether a plate of pasta will go straight to our thighs and stressing over a dish made with white rice instead of brown seems so petty when there are people who are dying of hunger and would gladly jump at the opportunity to take the food that we so unfairly reject. Being able to choose healthier options is definitely a blessing, as is being able to adapt when those choices aren’t available. Thank you for sharing this 🙂 Wonderful food for thought.

    • I could never belittle those fears either. They are too real. But you are right we have to learn to be thankful for our blessings and the ability to chose but also able to adapt because sometimes in order to have fun or help others or just live you don’t have a choice. Or you do but the other option beyond eating what is available is eating nothing at all and that isn’t life

  6. Just reading through some of the comments first and I think you probably know where my mind went. But anyways, this is such a POWERFUL post. Honestly, this is going in one of my top 5 favorite blogging posts. It puts a lot of things in perspective that the world does not revolve around food, workouts, BLOGGING, internet..ect…we are so incredibly lucky to have these options but so many are not. I know we chatted a bit about this but seriously wow.

    • Hollie I hope others read your comment you put into words what I am trying to get across to others and myself. It means a lot to me that you found this so powerful. We are incredibly lucky and before this trip I had never met and interacted with so many people that didn’t have what I have. I felt bad and yes my heart did break almost every day. But it was also filled with joy by the perseverance of these individuals. Because while they do not have every fortune that you and I have they still find a moment to smile. It helped me to realize that the pieces of my life I value so much are not the most valuable things. There is more to life

  7. This sounds like an absolutely awesome experience and such a great opportunity to put things into prospective! I cannot even begin to imagine not having the opportunity to eat or to do something because it’s not available to me… It goes much beyond food, to life in general. When I was in college we had similar opportunities to participate in service trips and I’ll never forget some of those experiences…

    • I am so thankful for this experience especially because it was so unexpected (we weren’t originally going to Atlanta!) I am now trying to imagine not having a choice at all of my meals. It is hard now that I am not in the situations but I just don’t want to forget and take my life for granted anymore

  8. I LOVED this post. Absolutely loved. You shed light on some of the greatest (and saddest) contradictions in our society and showed the importance of perspective daily. First of all, you are absolutely incredible to willingly put yourself in a situation where you knew how little control you would have. It takes a truly brave and motivated person to do that, and you persevered! Amazing. Everything happens for a reason and you were simply meant to take this trip. The universe wanted to give you a change in perspective…sometimes that’s all it takes to create a much-needed tipping point in life. Second, you touched upon a very important issue in our society – the fact that those in poverty lack healthy food options. It’s truly sad to see the “food” these individuals must eat in order to survive, but then again they don’t have much choice right? Of course, these individuals likely don’t complain (they’re surely grateful for the simple fact that they at least have food!). I just wish more can be done to provide healthier options to these families. Personally, I don’t believe this will happen anytime soon. After all, we’re nowhere near eliminating hunger and that should come before “healthifying” food. Sorry for this long comment 🙂 ❤

    • I loved this long comment ❤ You are right, the universe did send me on this trip so I could gain some much needed perspective in life. I can honestly say that from this trip I have already used so many of the lessons and things I experienced in order to push pass a few mental struggles. And we were all struck by the quality of the food we feed the hungry. It is so sad. But you are right they have to eat and we have to fight hunger before we can even begin to look at the health of the foods we are feeding people. These people's situations has certainly made me rethink my much to picky attitude towards food and health

  9. OH my gosh, I have experienced this exact same thing!!! Every Thursday night, my church (at home in Philly) hosts a “soup kitchen” for the homeless in the inner city. Since I was home for the summer, my mom and I made an effort to go and volunteer as many thursdays as we could, and I have to tell you it was a HUGELY eye-opening experience that really gave me some perspective. The first time I was there, we served a shepherd’s pie thing – ground beef, cheese, mashed potatoes, corn….there was a salad and a cake for dessert and roles….and I was just like OH my god, how lucky am I to choose what I get to eat! Like, not only would I NEVER (okay maybe not never, but not then and still not now) be okay eating anything but the salad….I’m intolerant to gluten and really actually couldn’t eat anything but salad. But these people have no choice. It made me so sad for them, but then seeing how completely grateful they were for the food and for us, telling me I was “such an angel” when I came around giving them seconds….they were grateful for what they had, even though it wasn’t anything I could imagine wanting, and here I got to go home and eat my spinach and kale and sweet potato and tofu and hummus “safe” meal and I never even appreciated the fact that I can do that. SO much perspective. It’s a little easier to remember out here in CO since I pay for my own groceries and have to be more frugal and careful, but I still get to eat basicalyl what I want. I think everyone could do with some sort of reminder like this in their lives, whether or not it has to do with food – we get to choose so much and that’s not a given for anyone!

    • EXACTLY! And you are right these people were more grateful in those few hours than I have ever been for a meal. And I should be grateful everyday of my life for my food that I can chose with a small budget that I am able to break if needed, and a bed to sleep on every night. I actually thought of you and others who are intolerant to quite a few foods and wondered how you would even be able to manage of this trip or in these people’s places. You know that there are certainly people out there who are intolerant to gluten and nuts and many other things. What do they do? There isn’t a special kitchen just for them…

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