Hoarding and my eating disorder overlap perfectly in one place in my home: the fridge. This past week has been a terrible struggle ED-wise for a few reasons. First, I'm finally having to cope emotionally with all of the family stuff. I'd been putting off actually dealing with it while I was on vacation. Secondly, I had my coworkers over for lunch this week which meant that I purchased enough food to feed six hungry people beyond what the Chief Engineer and I would usually purchase. Third, the Chief Engineer suddenly had to go out of town for the week.
In other words I found myself at home alone this week, in a bad emotional state, and with a fridge that was practically bursting open with food. My eating disorder had a field day.
After a couple of therapy sessions this week my ED calmed down I stopped acting like the restricting bulimic woman that I am. What I was left with was a bunch of very strange desires that I have to try to comprehend. The big one: food hoarding.
I am terrified of throwing away food. I will eat food I don't like just so that it doesn't get thrown out. I'll hang on to food items for years before I can bear to get rid of them. I will clean my plate because I don't want to see those extra two spoonfuls of food go to waste. And when I go to the store, I buy more than I could possibly eat before it spoils.
Why am I like this and what can I do about it? Well, some of it comes from my father, who always chastised us whenever we didn't finish our food. He got very upset at us when food was wasted, but it was okay if he stocked the freezer so full that half of it was inedible when it was finally unearthed years after purchase, of course.
But it's not just that. I'm afraid of food disappearing. I have been since I was a child. Even when I was little, if you put a standard-sized cake in front of me I would easily eat 1/4 of it, if not a full half. My mother didn't allow junk food in the house except on rare occasions and my sister and I would inhale it whenever we did get it. That's probably where my fear of food disappearing came from. I never knew when I was next going to be able to have "treat" foods, so I gobbled them down as fast as I could, before they would disappear.
Some of my fear of food going away is also a result of being anorexic before I was bulimic. When you're only eating 750 calories a day your body gets really used to the idea that it better eat when it does encounter food because it doesn't know how long or how bad the next "famine" is going to be. My six months as a full-blown anorexic, and my years as a restricting bulimic have made my body very worried that it's not going to get the food it needs. Better hoard it, just in case! Better not throw it out, you could need it later!
This week my dietician have me doing some exercises to help my fear of food disappearing. I am to remind myself that I can always have the food again simply by going out to the grocery store and get more. I don't need to eat the entire container of ice cream out of fear that I won't get to have it again for a long time. I'm an adult, I can go to the grocery store or one of the concessions at work almost any time I want.
In particular this week I've been worried about wasted from the party leftovers. I didn't even like the pound of pastrami that I bought and yet I wanted to keep it. But the Chief Engineer isn't around to eat it instead and it'll go bad by the time he gets back. It's a sunk cost, and I just have to accept that. I threw it out. The 15-pound watermelon that nobody touched? I can't eat that myself either. So I cut up half and took it to friends of ours downstairs. Their boys are growing teenagers and they were thrilled when I showed up with 7 pounds of watermelon. That made me feel good. I need to give away more food instead of stuffing myself.
I am also supposed to look at whether I really want the food that I'm keeping or making myself eat. Case in point: this pizza. I went out with a friend for dinner last night. She loves thin-crust pizza and I really don't. I had half of the pizza to take home but I didn't even like it when I ate it at the restaurant.
It needs to go out.
"But I spent $11 on that pizza!," says ED. "I'm throwing $5.50 away by not eating the other half!," he grumbles.
No. I paid $11 for the experience of eating out with my friend, not so much for the pizza itself. I wouldn't voluntarily pay someone $5.50 to make me miserable, so why am I eating something I don't like to "save" myself $5.50? The money is already spent, regardless of whether I eat the other half of the pizza.
Like my dietician said, eating food I don't like so that I'm not wasting it doesn't make sense.
W-A-S-T-E becomes a matter of W-A-I-S-T, which rhymes with bulimia! Out goes the pizza.
So, things for me to remember:
1.) I'm not wasting money when I throw food I don't like out. The money is a sunk cost.
2.) I can have just about any food again. In the rare event that I can't, I still have the memories associated with the food.
3.) Eating food I don't like and don't physically need is more wasteful than throwing it out.
4.) Eating food I don't like or need contributes to a pattern of bulimia, which keeps me sick, which keeps me in weekly $50 therapy sessions. That's a lot more expensive than a bit of food!
Off to clean the freezer this week!