Seeking Empathy - A One Month Refugee Diet

Eric’s Journal – Day 16

Sunday night and Jeremiah and I are now on the downhill half of the month. I’ve been having trouble finding the focus to sit down and write a journal entry. At the start of the month I thought that I would be much more focused on the seeking empathy aspect of this fast, but I am finding that all the distractions of everyday life are clouding that. To be honest, I find that a little dissapointing. Unlike Jeremiah, I have not been to the refugee camps so my friends and family are not as aware of how much ending this genocide means to me. I sent an email out on Friday to my friends and family and I have received incredible support. My hope is that the support shown for me will be extended into action for the people of Darfur. So as far as that goes, I am upbeat about how things are going.

Refugee-Diet-Day16I am still averaging around 1 pound a day of weight loss, but I expect that to stabilize soon. I started at 157 lbs and I’m now 141 lbs. I am tightening my belt more than I’ve ever had to to keep my pants up. In the middle of the 2nd week I started to really obsess over food. I went onto restaurant review websites and made notes about which places I would eat at next month. This phase seems to have passed, and I now have no problem eating my rations while sitting next to much more desirable food. This picture shows the “his” and “her” dinners at my apartment tonight.

Physically, my body is coping reasonably well with the diet. Aside from weight loss the only real problems I’ve been having are unusually bad muscle aches and soreness. I normally eat a high protein diet and the drastic reduction in protein might be the cause of my muscle issues. But I certainly can’t complain because I am still sleeping on a nice comfy bed, not directly on a dirt floor like so many in the camps must do. The human body is so resilient that I don’t think that 1 month of being on the refugees rations can serve as a meaningful basis to extrapolate and understand the long-term effects of this insufficient diet. Part of me feels like if someone were to go on the refugee diet for just 2 or 3 days they might come away with a strong connection and sense of empathy by just going through the more difficult initial transition. This might be something that more people could participate in safely. I have never had issues with eating or dieting, but I do recognize what I’m doing as basically living with an eating disorder for a month. And while I’m personally comfortable doing this, I would worry about potential long-term effects on other people that might be vulnerable to acquiring an eating disorder.

If you were to turn on the TV right now it might look as if all of Los Angeles (where I live) is burning down. My mind has been wandering and wondering, “What if…”. What if the government told us that terrorists started all these fires that have destroyed hundreds of homes in southern California? What would our response be? Would people in Vermont shrug their shoulders in apathy and not care because California is so far away from them? Would they say that it’s our problem and doesn’t affect them? No, they would rally behind us and send as much support as they could. Why is this? Because we are Americans and if Americans are attacked we all band together and support each other. So then why are people in this country willing to broaden their net of concern from their neighborhood to their city to their state to the national level, but are unwilling to take it beyond the country’s borders? My hope for the future is that people will grow to embrace their responsibility to all the people on earth with as much enthusiasm as they embrace their responsibility to their fellow country-men today. Maybe when this happens the member nations of the UN will live up to their Responsibility to Protect, and the awful atrocities in Darfur will finally be stopped.

5 replies on “Eric’s Journal – Day 16”

Eric, keep up the good work. You bring up some very good points here. Why do we limit our compassion with nationalism instead of extending it to all of humanity? I agree we definitely need to see past the borders. This genocide could be well over if we all could embrace the people limited to this 1000 calorie diet in the refugee camps as our sisters and brothers rather then simply turning our heads.

You and Jeremiah are both great inspirations!


I really burst out laughing when you wrote about going into the restaurant sites – this is something, minus the actual internet search – that I do after about 2 weeks in the camps. I start narrowing down my first meal, even if it is still 10 days away.

I received a message back from the Facebook group from one guy wanting to join you all. I urged him to write to you on this website and told him that both you and Miah would help him through the beginning of it.

Keep it up Eric. G and I will join you for a day soon.

Hey E!

Wow, you were already thin, and now..!!! You have now lost more weight than I lost on my first, 1-month, trip to the camps. We go on a diet of tuna, nuts, and granola bars–mostly. After a few days, we get so tired of eating the same thing! But, we get some pretty good protein and overall nutrition, for the few weeks we are there.

Thank you for doing this and sharing the experience. I have been out the the East of Chad six times, but your and Miah’s search for empathy is still making me reflect on the experiences of refugees, especially the children.

We’re with you, E!


Hey Eric,

I just commented to Miah’s post but it is as much to you as it is to him.

You’re doing brilliantly…. :)

Gayle xxx

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