I have had a minor epiphany recently, and while I don’t yet know how to “solve” it, I think it’s a useful key to unraveling the Great and Cosmic Mystery that is my lifelong struggle with my weight:
I am a food hoarder.
I’m not really to the point where I would be eligible to be on Hoarders or Buried Alive or any of those other related television shows; I’ve just got a refrigerator and a chest freezer and a pantry and some cupboards full of food. My inner bargain hunter views these with a certain sense of pride–after all, a lot of the things in there were on sale when I bought ’em, so I saved just gobs of money, and that’s a good thing, right? And it’s not like I’ve reached the level of those Extreme Couponing people–I don’t use coupons at all, really, because I almost never buy the things that the coupons are for, so the whole “setting up a small grocery store in my garage” thing is a bit beyond me–but I’ll admit to having a good 40+ pounds of flour stockpiled, plus all those soups that were on clearance that one day, plus a whole bunch of baking chips (who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie?) and the big container of baking powder from Costco and enough butter to clog the arteries of several elephants (for what it’s worth, that stuff has shot up in price lately, and we happened to hit a great sale where we picked up about 25 pounds of butter at less than half price. Butter freezes beautifully, so we just went ahead and laid in our supply for the year).
So when I was digging through a few million bags of frozen veggies on a quest for the bag of seasoning blend (for the record, I love seasoning blend–it’s onions and celery and parsley, all finely diced and ready to roll, and you just chuck a handful or two into whatever it is that you’re making), I started thinking about where the line lives between “well-stocked” and “minor hoarding situation”, and realized that I am probably riding that line…and then the second, more “oof”-worthy truth hit:
I hoard food, not just in my home, but in my body.
I grew up in a home that, while not entirely food-insecure, was certainly nowhere near the level of food security I currently enjoy. One of Mom’s great triumphs was feeding a family of four on a single leftover pork chop (pro tip: shred the chop, stir in a lot of BBQ sauce, heat, and serve over bread as open-faced sandwiches). We laugh now about the time when Mom got the good-paying job that enabled us to have some non-generic brands in the pantry, and I marveled at the appearance of boxes and cans that weren’t black-and-white (yep, we’re talking that generic. Not store-brand, but the full-on white-labels-with-black-lettering products, including peanut butter in cans that said “Peanut Butter” and had a picture of a peanut on the front, the kind you had to stir before you could eat it). There was always something to eat; we just never really had the “good” stuff, the stuff you wanted to share with friends at lunchtime. We ate a lot of fried bologna, if that’s any indication. In high school, I once found a dollar in change on the ground, and was delighted because rolls in the cafeteria were two for 10 cents, so I could have 4 rolls each day that week and feel like I was eating like a king. We didn’t starve, but we also didn’t really have much wiggle room in the food budget.
So when I took a job as a nanny one summer in high school, I was astonished by the amount of food the Rich Folks had. I must’ve eaten a thousand Pop-Tarts that summer, because they bought them by the case (the kids loved ’em) and they were such a glorious departure from the usual toast/oatmeal/generic cereals options I had for breakfast at home. And that habit stayed with me: when there’s delicious food around, particularly if it’s “fancy”, I will eat like it’s my last meal. Anything dairy is my downfall–cheese is my Achilles heel, as long as it’s not American singles; I would sell bits of my soul for the “good” ice cream, the kind that doesn’t come in the cardboard brick for $1.50 and has exactly 4 flavor options; and I am an absolute sucker for flavored coffee creamers (I know, those are only nominally a dairy product), to the point that if left unattended, I’ll go through a bottle of it every few days. It’s ridiculous, really, and vaguely embarrassing.
But it’s my truth: when I was a kid, I was never 100% sure that the “good” stuff would be around tomorrow, so I ate the heck out of it when we did have it. Brownies didn’t stand a chance around me. Ditto for Cheetos (the generic Cheetos just didn’t have the same crunch, the same flavor, the same oomph), and Doritos, and cheeseburgers. Our parents did everything they could for us, and we never went to bed hungry; but I ended up as a food hoarder all the same.
So I suppose I’ll just need to work on retraining myself to believe that the food is still going to be there tomorrow. Moon Man has a good job, one that lets us afford the “good” stuff every day and the “extra-fancy” stuff with some regularity; so it’s not like last night’s fried chicken will be the last fried chicken we eat this year. I don’t have to hoard food; I don’t have to mentally count the french fries we’re sharing to make sure we get equal amounts down to the individual fry; I don’t have to eat triple servings of Cocoa Pebbles, because I can always come back for another bowl later if I’m still hungry.
The food, as it turns out, is not going anywhere. Now I just need to break the habit of believing that it might.
PSA: There are a shameful number of people in this world who are food-insecure. Odds approach 100% that unless you’re living in a small, hand-picked, gated community, there’s probably a whole heap of food-insecure people in your own hometown. So the next time you’re at the store, look for the food donation barrels–they’re usually by the front door–and drop something in. It doesn’t have to be much, and it doesn’t have to be fancy; heck, it doesn’t even have to be a food you personally particularly like. But every little bit helps, so help if you can, ok? Your karma–and at least one hungry person–will thank you.