Pantomime dates as far back as ancient Rome. A form of entertainment which conveys meaning without using words, pantomime is today generally geared toward children.
That, as it turns out, is highly appropriate.
Children – especially the youngest – lack words for many of the things they experience. They can, however, convey information without being aware of doing so. Most of us are familiar with the use of puppets and toys to elicit information from little ones who may have been abused . Pantomime can play a role, as well.
Food and Children
Food has emotional significance for children. Food represents nurture. It is life. Children require both physical and emotional sustenance. When one is lacking, the other may serve as a temporary substitute.
Food and Abuse
This can be useful in the short term. Even as adults, we recognize the concept of “comfort” food. However, when children are chronically deprived of love and attention, no amount of food will rectify the problem.
Unfortunately, children may ignore that reality in a futile attempt to have their emotional needs met. Overeating can be a sign of emotional starvation . It may, also, be a sign of sexual abuse .
With child molestation, a child can feel overwhelming anger, but lack the means of expressing that powerful emotion. Food, in this context, may be used to push the anger down. This is an instinctive response, not one consciously pursued by the child.
Lifelong Weight Issues
The child’s frantic overeating can lay the foundation for a lifelong struggle with weight.
As adults, most of us have long since forgotten what gave rise to our overeating. Oh, we know the battle with the scale is a matter of life and death. But our opponent is the woman in the mirror, and our motivation to get those childhood needs met.
We stuff the food down, barely tasting it, forcing our emotions down. We eat uncontrollably, even foods we may find unappetizing. And no matter how much we eat, we cannot get enough.
Weight issues become a kind of pantomime for the abuse. Silently, we cry out – our pain obvious, our shame obvious, our flaws on display for the world to see. What was to have provided comfort, becomes a means of punishment and public humiliation. The more we eat, the worse we feel; the worse we feel, the more we eat.
The Bread of Life
The answer is not pie or cake, not a pill or concoction, and not constant dieting. Dieting, if abuse victims can manage it, is certainly a help. But the real answer, the long-term solution, is having our emotional needs met.
We can educate ourselves about abuse, rejecting the stigma attached to that formative experience in our lives. We can choose to treat ourselves less judgmentally, when it comes to weight issues. We can make a deliberate effort to nurture ourselves.
“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’ ” (John 6: 35).
Above all, we can take our pain to God. He is able to meet our needs at their deepest level. Though others in our lives may have failed us, God never will.
With God’s assistance, we can express ourselves in ways that no longer require pantomime.
 This technique must be employed by a trained expert. It is possible to misinterpret what children are actually attempting to convey and, also, possible to confuse them by using leading questions which suggest the desired response.
 It is worth noting that neglected children are frequently malnourished. Infants have been starved to death by a parent.
 Childhood obesity can result from many factors. By itself, it should not be viewed as diagnostic for emotional abuse.
 Loss of appetite may, also, be a sign of sexual abuse. Because loss of appetite is non-specific, other factors should be considered, as well.
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