By Kenden Alfond

This week I got an email from a former colleague in Nairobi asking me if I was available to do remote psycho-therapy for people suffering after the recent terrorist incident there.  I said yes.  That same day, I had been thinking about writing this blog about humanitarian and development professionals and weight gain.  After theNairobi email – I wondered if this blog was relevant.  When there are colleagues suffering from traumatic experiences – are any of your personal preferences for wellness important?  Who cares if your favorite jeans fit?

YES- even with the world suffering, your personal wellness is important to you and others.  You are not helping anyone by suffering in your own body.   

During the individual coachingassessment session, there is a whole segment about body wellness and inevitably body issues arise.  Clients say “I know that this is superficial but....”. 

This is the one unique element – how you include ignoring their body as part of your job to focus on helping others.  When did the body become superficial? Is making your body invisible part of your ToR? The body is your vehicle in this life.  It is like not maintaining your car and then wondering why it breaks down all the time.  

It is not superficial to want to feel at ease in your own skin, to feel good in your clothes, and to feel like yourself when you walk into a room.  Most of the people I talk with seem to think that feeling bad in their own bodies is just a natural consequence of doing this work. 

Two questions:

  • Since starting your work, how has your body actually changed?
  • Since starting your work, how has your body image changed (i.e. how you think/feel about your body)?
  • When did you feel physically at your best?

I know that your international job appears unique on the surface; meaningful themes, foreign travel, helping others,....  However, “international” work most of the time is being in an office behind a computer, talking on the phone, attending meetings, focusing on humanitarian and development issues.  And like it or not, this type of sedentary life includes:

  • Sitting at a desk most of the day
  • Eating because of stress
  • Eating out regularly in restaurants or eating junk food on the go
  • Eating the food available in the office “office candy jar”
  • Skipping meals because of time constraints
  • Workplace celebrations (potlucks, birthdays)
  • Pressure to eat food co-workers bring in
  • Happy hours
  • Delicious airplane food :)

Your environment is probably not going to change – are you? 


What does it feel like to wake up in the morning and feel at home in your own body?

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