Every day, twice a day baby! (photo credit: Sarah Bayot)
*Don’t miss Part I and Part II of my Congo Journey story!*

I didn’t run or workout for 10 days. On Tuesday, I ran a glorious 6 miles and did 45 minutes of Crossfit and it was absolutely amazing. Running never felt so good, at least that’s what it felt like.

I think my body was good and ready for that long break and it’s just what I needed before diving into marathon training this weekend. I’m not sure how I’m going to phase out Crossfit or if I’m going to do Crossfit Endurance. Decisions soon! If you have opinions & haven’t shared them yet — please do!

Know what else felt good? Eating fruits & vegetables again! Here is a menu of my life in Congo for 10 days:

Sample Menu in Congo

Breakfast: Instant coffee with cream & sugar
                   2 pieces of white bread with margarine & sugar
                   1 egg

Lunch: Rice & beans
            banana or potato

Dinner: Rice & beans
             Fried dough balls

Snack: Granola Bar

As you can tell, there’s not a lot of variety going on. It’s okay for a short period of time but my body was so out of whack. It is used to very “usual” schedule and was very confused.

This is not a complaint commentary — just a observatory one. What I noticed was how tired and lethargic I got. Additionally, I was always hungry! I felt like I constantly needed snacks (though I really didn’t have much).

We ate meals with the kids, who always sit on the floor. This photo is from last year’s trip when they didn’t even have silverware to eat with. Thankfully, this year that problem has been remedied. (photo credit: Sarah Bayot)

What’s interesting is that I remember how I often used to feel this “lethargy” in my earlier life, before I started eating healthily and with many snacks. I definitely didn’t like returning to this feeling, especially with so much work to do while we were there but…that was what I got so I did my best!

By the end of the week, I was annoying myself with constantly growing weak.  The main reason? The kids eat like this their entire lives — and they don’t get breakfast or a snack. Of course their bodies are used to it but…it makes me so sad to know that most days, these kids don’t eat until 1pm every day. They walk to school and attend class without any fuel for their minds & bodies.

I’m told that last year, they were only getting one meal a day. Now, they are getting two — and doing much better than many children across the country who are NOT orphans. This is just one of the many problems I encountered while there.

Breakfast: instant coffee, tea and white white white bread!

It was an interesting experience for a person with former (sometimes current apparently) “food issues.” For example, I felt a little panicky when I started getting hungry and there was nothing to eat. I attempted to always have something available but the possibility that I might not get to eat for hours made me feel weird and anxious.

Then, if I did have enough food (for example, Karin was kind enough to share some extra snacks with me), I had to discipline myself not to gobble it all up at once. Having to save it for later in case I needed it was hard for me.

Even in the airport on the way home, I bought a thing of Pringles and could barely stop myself from devouring the entire container. I had to force myself to give it away! Out of my comfort zone, I have all kinds of emotional weirdness with food still. I suppose this is just a description for readers of what goes through the mind of a recovered anorexic and binge eater. It’s always sort of there, plaguing you a little.

Hand washing is a very important ritual pre-meal in Congo

Even discussing this in public makes me feel self-absorbed — first world problems as some might say. I mean…these kids have no idea when they get to eat next and have gone to bed hungry many many many times more than I. It’s just life for them. I sure take it for granted that I get to keep that metabolism going with snacks every two hours, a cabinet full of goodies and access to nearly anything I want at any time of the day or night back home.

Truth be told, I can’t imagine anyone having an eating disorder in Congo. It’s a laughable thought. You only get food when you are very hungry and then you eat a lot of it because it’ gonna be awhile before you get more. No worries about your co-worker’s candy jar or the ice cream you bought this weekend.

Obviously, I was happy to be back to my “normal,” where I seemingly have more control. With the freedom comes other sets of problems of course but here I can handle myself better. The past three days have been full of spinach salads and apples and V-8s and greek yogurt and strawberries and broccoli and more. My energy is back, the lethargy is gone.

Another perspective on food and hunger is a good thing. I’m hoping I will think twice before I partake in gluttony any time soon. I’m hoping I’ll appreciate my food, taste and thank God for it a little more. Because it’s good and I have so much more than I deserve.

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