The Weight of Furlough

Beginning of furlough

Beginning of furlough

Furlough can put a lot of weight on the missionary–both figure-atively speaking and literally.

The reasons for this may be apparent. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The missionaries’ job while on furlough is to visit people and present their ministry. Basically, sit around and talk. Which usually happens with food! Go to another place, eat, wash, rinse, and repeat. (This may be more true for those on shorter furloughs.)

After not experiencing some of their favorite foods for a number of years, missionaries have a hard time denying self, much less denying their hosts and hostesses. Here are some slimming thoughts:

1. Nobody gets to experience all good things to eat.

You get to a restaurant (or home) and think, “This is the only time I’m going to get to eat ___! I won’t get another chance for four years! How can I refuse??” Oh goodness, if everyone thought that way, we would break both our banks and scales.

All those tempting dessert options at Burger King? No one gets to eat them all! You can’t have the cinna-minibon and the Otis Spunk-something chocolate chunk cookie and the blue raspberry icee and the brownie caramel sundae. You have to choose. And usually you have to refuse. I have never had an Auntie Anne’s pretzel or several other delicious options American malls offer. That’s okay! There are certain Little Debbies I’ve never experienced either.

No one can eat all of the gamut of incredible sweet or savory treats that America can offer. Everyone has to limit the options sometime. So stop thinking, even of your list of favorites, that you can only eat it in America, so better get it now! You simply cannot eat all the things you might have craved over the last four years; and if you did, you would regret it.

After furlough

After furlough

2. Decide what your limit is–before you go back! And try hard to stick to it. Make a list before you go back of your absolute favorite snacks or candy that you must get your “fix” of while in America, and try to just indulge in those things–and space them out!

Must you have Chicago deep dish pepperoni pizza or cheesecake or cheese combos or Twix, Butterfinger, Reeses Pieces, or Swiss cake rolls? (Gettin’ hungry, aren’t ya?) Make a list of your top 20, and tell yourself you will probably only get to the top 10 on this visit.

And cross anything off the list that you can get even remotely similar in your host country. (I can get something like Whoppers and M&Ms here, so those are out for me in the States.)

Limit yourself to a certain number of snacks and desserts in a week, and prioritize homemade ones from your hostesses over storebought or restaurant offerings.

3. When surrounded by abundance, you need accountability. How do you know how much your intake is? You might be shocked if you knew. Ask your husband to join you in limiting intake when you are alone as a family, especially while on the road. Track your calories on My Fitness Pal. (Take advantage of internet access while in America to fight the negatives of good-food-access.)

4. Once you’ve gotten over your initial culture shock and enjoyment of America (one month at the most!), start ordering salads wherever you can when you go out–especially if you don’t really care about the specific food culture of that restaurant. Cracker Barrel isn’t a huge temptation to me; salads there, every time. Chick Fil-A–after that initial chicken sandwich, every time thereafter, a salad is the way to go!

Culver's butter burger and custard was my downfall!

Culver’s butter burger and custard was my downfall!

5. Push yourself to exercise. This is really difficult in the winter, especially especially at other people’s houses! Thankfully, our furlough this time was in the summer. But push yourself to take any chance you can to jog, do sit-ups, aerobic DVD on a laptop in your bedroom–anything! ๐Ÿ™‚ But I do think my efforts in this regard stayed some of the weight I might have put on otherwise.

6. Try to make exercising fun. Tell yourself that you usually don’t get to exercise in this or that way in your host country, so it’s a pleasure to get to do that in America. I can’t jog in Africa. I would sprain my ankles on the rutted dirt roads. I tried for a period of time on the one tar road that connects several villages, but I got too noticed and honked at. Didn’t like it. But in America when we stayed at my parents’ house, they could keep an eye on the kids when they were in bed for the night, and I could go for a safe jog with my husband, which made for an almost date!

7. And here’s a tip for all those non-missionaries who love and host missionaries when they come back on furlough: Put scales in the bathroom of the visiting missionary. Really! This is not an insult. They don’t know whether that scale is always there or not. But it could give them a wake-up call! (I could not find a scale for five weeks in a row this past furlough!)

8. If you’ve had a lot to eat lately, start skipping breakfast wherever possible. You can’t usually do this when you are staying with another family. But if you’re in the prophet’s chambers of a church or with Mom and Dad, and something drastic needs to be done, skip! Let your husband pour the cold cereal, and don’t even go there!

9. Remind yourself for every pleasure you partake in that it will have to be balanced by pain of exercise or self-denial later to get it off. Make indulgences worth it!

10. And this one is not a slimming alternative, but…enjoy it! When you do decide to splurge–savor it, stop and smell the roses, roll the morsel around on your tongue, make it last, concentrate on it, be thankful for it! If you gained some weight even after all of your endeavors, oh well. Enjoy it! It is only once in every four years after all. And you have enforced self-denial on the field.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go prepare our dinner of cornmeal and wildebeest roast.

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About Amy

I'm Amy, a missionary wife and mother of four children, blogging about our lives and perspectives on culture in South Africa.
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13 Responses to The Weight of Furlough

  1. Aunt Annie’s pretzels are nothing to miss–IMO. I bought my first one this year for Dave for watching the kids for me, and I think my homemade are better! And I gained weight this summer too–it must be because missionaries were home on furlough. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Amy says:

      Now, see how encouraging you are! Now I won’t be tempted by Auntie Anne’s pretzels. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, the weight of furlough applies to missionaries’ close relatives as well!

  2. This was my favorite line…

    “You canโ€™t have the cinna-minibon and the Otis Spunk-something chocolate chunk cookie and the blue raspberry icee and the brownie caramel sundae.”

    I totally felt like that when we went to Pizza Hut for the first time in ages!;)

    Thanks for blogging about your life:) Keep up the good work on the field!

    -Annie (Missionary in Patagonia, Chile)

  3. Heidi says:

    What is really bad is the weight of furlough that unexpectedly merges with the weight of pregnancy…I speak from recent experience ๐Ÿ™‚ Cute blog post, Amy!

    • Amy says:

      Unfortunately I experienced that as well! (my first furlough) Yeah, that’s a killer. The only positive is that everyone just thinks you’re pregnant, rather than overweight! lol!

  4. Lou Ann says:

    Loved this! My doctor noticed I’d gained weight and called it “Furlough Disease.” I found it easiest to take ONE plate to any yummy church dinner and fill it about 3/4 full. Then, ONE dessert. On the road, we’re much more careful with fast food, going with more healthy options. Yes, you have to say “no” to those things we miss so much or only try them once. But, hey, we’re not starving. Life is still very, very good. :o)

  5. Pingback: Struggling with Hunger | Ita Vita

  6. Oh…My Sweet Swiss Cake Rolls! From one missionary to another, bring on the cake!

  7. Carole Shull says:

    Oh, what a great post! So true!

  8. Pingback: Evaluating 2013 Goals | Ita Vita

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