Sharing a Personal Update: Focusing on Physical Health in Difficult Times

October 10, 2023

Today is my 34th birthday. I am currently sitting on my porch in Tel Aviv, Israel writing this blog post. 

If you have been following the news, you know that war has broken out in Israel. One of the most serious and deadly in modern history. So what can a Dietitian say during wartime? In hebrew you would ask, מה הקשר? What’s the connection?

On Saturday morning October 7th, 2023, asleep in our apartment in Tel Aviv – we were woken at 7:30am by loud, blaring sirens. My roommate stormed into my room and we both jumped up and ran to our neighbor’s bomb shelter. Me, my roommate, her boyfriend and cousin who were crashing by us for the weekend, and our two neighbors crowded into the bomb shelter completely confused and bewildered. Frantically checking our phones to see what was going on. 

Saturday is Shabbat and would typically be a time of rest from using our devices but our safety was in question. We read that rockets were being shot from the Gaza strip in Israel by Hamas terrorists, into central and south Israel. And that hundreds of Hamas terrorists had infiltrated into Israel from the secured border. Within hours, we learned about hundreds of Israelis murdered, taken hostage, and missing, and that we were at war. We sat in our apartment glued to our phones and the news wanting to learn more and stay safe. Running in and out of the shelter as more sirens went off.

I was meant to fly out Saturday night to Denver, CO to be at the Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo and then out to New York a couple days later to see my family. No surprise that my flight was canceled. At first this was really difficult and emotional for me. And all I could think was Man Plans, God Laughs. But then slowly our apartment began to fill with other “Olim” (Jewish immigrants to Israel) friends in the community and we all were together comforting each other however we could. It happened to also have been our neighbor’s birthday that day (what a way to celebrate lol) and she had planned to have a nice sushi dinner out with friends. My roommate, being the incredible person that she is, wanted to make sure that she was still able to celebrate as she wanted to and made sure we got sushi delivery to our apartment that night. We all sat outside on our porch, ate sushi together. It seems like a futile, frivolous, thing in time of war but all I could think of was the importance of staying hydrated and nourished.

You can’t even begin to understand the constant state of fear, the anxiety, and running thoughts you experience in this time. What people do to cope can vastly range, and all you can do is be understanding. But one thing is true for all human bodies, we need food and water to help us even attempt to regulate. Over the last 3 days we have had the pleasure of hosting our friends for breakfast and dinners, feeding everyone healthy, nourishing homemade meals, in a relatively safe space with a nearby bomb shelter. 

Remember that many “Olim” here do not have extended family in this country, they do not have other homes to go to but their own. They have established roots with jobs, homes, partners, pets, children and families, medical needs etc. they cannot just walk away from the lives they built here in the Jewish state, nor should they have to. And they also should not feel, or be alone during this time. 

I tell my patients that when we are in a state of stress, there are 2 responses from our body. One is physiological, when we are stressed our body is releasing hormones that counteract healthy behavior. We can be doing all the healthy behaviors, but if we are stressed it’s as though it is canceled out. It is like walking up a down escalator. And 2, there is a mental barrier. When we are stressed, the last thing we want to do is cook a meal for ourselves – it seems silly and unimportant. And although making a decision like that one time may not be impactful, a decision like that many times can have a great impact on our health. That is why it is so imperative to do our best to find ways to be calm and manage the stress. 

Watching everyone helping to prepare these meals and then sitting down to eat the meal together, like a family, on our porch, has been one of the most comforting things to me. I feel helpless, sitting here mere miles from the homefronts, not able to be of service. Ensuring that people are caring for their physical health when mental health is struggling means everything to me. 

I hope that in the coming days and weeks, we see peace and an end to the violence. I hope we see more lives saved and comfort for those who have lost loved ones. In the meantime, take care of yourself – find support from others, take mental health breaks, and cook yourself a really yummy dinner.