Every day of my life, I see people who are destroying themselves from the inside-out. I marvel that some of these people are conscientious care-givers to other people and leave no stone unturned in those people’s care, yet neglect themselves. I see young people who are aggressively pursuing their own destruction with food, drink and tobacco. Odds are many of these dear young people will not see middle-age. I am aware of familial tendencies towards severe disease that could be avoided with the right habits, but for some reason, many people refuse to be proactive in their health. It is a source of great angst for me and David both. It’s at the core of why we do what we do, relentlessly, at no charge. Neither of us can even begin to fathom why anyone would choose illness. If you are not actively involved in self-care, you are choosing self-neglect and poor health. Our bodies, minds and spirits must be nurtured. Our parts will wear out and with no self-care that will happen much sooner. If we take an active part in protecting and improving our health, we can make those parts last much longer in good working condition.
Signs and Symptoms
Self-neglect is the inability or unwillingness to attend to one’s personal needs or hygiene. (1) It may manifest in many ways such as poor hygiene and inattention to clothing and medical needs but not attending to your nutrition properly is also a symptom. We all know those people who live on chips and dip or ice cream and cookies or some other such anomaly of nutrition. While you may challenge this by saying that if that’s what they like then it’s okay but that does not make it true. Any thinking person knows better. When we starve ourselves of necessary nutrients and fill up on empty calories that contribute to illness, we have a problem. This has every sign of substance abuse in that we keep reaching for something that is hurting us but we feel powerless to change it. In other types of substance abuse, the expense of the “drug of choice” prevents individuals from having the money to acquire necessities. Spending copious amounts of money on harmful food items is the same behavior. I know many people who spend their hard-earned cash strictly on harmful substances that range from cigarettes to sugar-laden junk food. Sugar induces a state in the brain that is similar to some illegal street drugs. If we load our grocery carts with snack cakes, sugar-sweetened drinks and refined, simple carbs such as copious amounts of pasta, we may not have the money for the good stuff. The parallels with drug addiction are profound.
Any time you have behaviors that are detrimental to your health and feel unable to change them, you should always seek the help of a medical professional. Your doctor may treat you with antidepressants or refer you to a good therapist. If you follow our eating plan as outlined here , you can improve your nutrition and overall health but you must see your medical doctor before beginning any nutritional program or exercise routine. Your doctor may recognize signs and symptoms of medical illness or behavior disorders that can be treated and that will enable you to follow a good nutritional program more effectively. Once you are under the care of a good physician, you will be better prepared to take control of your life. Even major changes usually begin with one very small step towards wellness. If you recognize yourself in this article, seek help immediately as some of these behaviors can be life-threatening. While poor nutrition is not usually a medical emergency, if you tend to neglect yourself in this area, there very well may be bigger issues looming of which even you are unaware., Your doctor may order some tests to determine your level of nutrition at this point. When you see where you stand, you will be more confident to make the necessary changes. Some nutritional deficiencies can be life-threatening and just because you are overweight or obese, that does not mean that you are not suffering from malnutrition. In this fast-food, processed, refined food world that we live in, it’s actually fairly common for an obese person to have severe deficiencies.
This article would not be complete without a reminder that regardless of how selfless you are in caring for others, if they actually need you in their lives, you MUST care for yourself first. Otherwise, if you get sick and cannot care for them, you are both down. I grew up in the Bible Belt of The Deep South and self-neglect was considered a sacrificial act of religious caliber. There is even a song called, “Others” which glorifies this behavior. I have been ostracized and criticized by many highly religious people for taking care of myself. The great irony is, I’m still going strong and healthy, many years senior to a great number of those people, while many of them are dead or chronically ill. Any teaching that gives you the impression that you are not important and you should not take care of yourself is bad teaching. Take care of the temple, (your body), it’s truly the only place that you have to live. By caring for yourself you can live a much more functional life and help “Others” for a long time.
You are important. Treat yourself as such and enjoy a longer, richer, more productive life for many years to come.
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