It has come to my attention recently (by way of a doctor’s appointment, talking with a counselor, and my friend eating too much at a gathering) that I really need to get a hold of my tendency to eat. If it is in front of me, I tend to eat it, whether or not I’m actually hungry. I eat when I’m studying, or bored. The only time I don’t eat is when I’m emotionally upset (like a break-up); that tends to prompt a fasting period.
So where did this urge to eat come from? For maybe by understanding its origins, I can take steps to undo the compulsion…
I think part of it might be my upbringing. You know, when parents urge you to clear your plate at dinner because there are starving people in the world and you don’t want to waste food. (Nevermind that we saved the leftovers to eat later…) If this is the case, then clearing my plate should have brought praise and smiles from my parents. I can’t actually remember them saying this…
… Though on a related note, dinners with my parents weren’t the calmest of times. They were often totally quiet, as my parents would read the newspaper at the dinner table (which is how I learned to read upside-down). Or the atmosphere was so walking-on-eggshells because my parents were in the silent phase of an argument that we finished eating as soon as possible and excused ourselves back to our rooms.
(Gods, there was so much social awkwardness just in that last paragraph, it’s no wonder I didn’t know how to interact with people in the real world.)
I think another part of my overeating comes from the last five years or so, when I’ve been receiving food stamps. First of all, I usually get between $150 and $183 per month, depending on how much money I was making during the weeks leading up to the most recent recertification period. And unless nine-tenths of what you eat is rice and beans, it’s really hard to make that size budget stretch to cover three meals a day for 31 days. Second, if the timing wasn’t just right, it was VERY easy for paperwork to slip through the cracks, and then my benefits would stop.
I think I might’ve developed a bit of Starving Cat Syndrome, where you eat whatever you can because you don’t really know where your next meal is coming from. And while my situation wasn’t (isn’t) really that bad, it’s settled as a nervousness in the back of my brain, which prompts me to stock up on rice and cans of beans so that if I do run out of food stamps in any given month, I’ll still have something available. I definitely did not think like that back in the day.
On a related note, it is really hard to eat good-quality food while on a food stamp budget. Anything that says “organic” tends to be so expensive that I don’t bother with it, despite knowing that it’s healthier. So when medical people tell me that I should try X, Y, or Z eating plan (gluten-free, almond milk, chia seeds, etc.), I always have to tell them that I’m on a VERY limited food budget and simply can’t afford the fancy things they’re suggesting.
Something I heard recently, and I’m not sure how much credit to give it, is that I might have started overeating because I felt empty (emotionally), and wanted to feel full, and food did the job and tasted good so wins all around. I don’t necessarily agree with this (as my post-break-up fasting indicates), but it intuitively makes sense. So why does my intuition agree with this?
Answer: I have no idea. But it is something to keep in mind.
I’m concerned about making too many changes to my life at once, because I don’t think I’d be able to continue ALL of them, but I’m thinking about adding “investigate OA” to my list of potential changes to make this summer. I’m checking out the OA website now, and getting the tear-prickle response, so I know that some of this resonates with me. (On the other hand, reading the Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions is kinda wigging me out a bit.)
At any rate, I think I did rather well today. While my gluten-free test got put on major pause, I did not stuff myself stupid at the buffet. One victory at a time.