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The Scarcity Model, Compulsive Eating, and a new fondness for post-its

I have had a complicated relationship with food for as long as I can remember.  I often find that my days are filled with complex rituals of wanting, needing, accumulating, and feeling guilty about food. Upon becoming an “adult” it was a major relief to me to be in complete and total responsibility of what I ate and how I provided myself with my own wants and needs. However, often these desires to provide and take care of myself take on lives of their own and cause me to end up at the grocery store filling my cart with food that is good for me (ie. produce mostly), which then, due to time and work constrictions, I am unable to consume, causing me to either binge to keep up or feel ultimately so guilty for letting food that I paid good money for go to waste.

This is the scarcity model at work. When you grow up in an environment where anything feels unsafe or uncertain (financially, emotionally, or otherwise, often having to do with parental addiction, but sometimes just occurring organically based upon parents own dealings with scarcity in THEIR pasts), individuals grow up with the tendency to stockpile. When I realized that I was old enough to go to the store and had my very first refrigerator to fill to the brim with anything and everything my heart desired, my heart desired to do exactly that, fill it to the brim.

I’m not sure that I have to tell you that, consequently – of course, filling your refrigerator to the brim translates into little more than delaying the moment when you will fill yourself to the brim, overwhelmed and overcome by your sudden abundance. And I dally between filling myself with healthy food and unhealthy, often with the scale tipping heavily in one direction until sheer inertia and necessity knocks it violently in the other direction. Because,  I am a compulsive eater.  I have been using food as a tool to comfort, punish, reward, love, treat, hate myself for as long as I can remember, and while this has become less unhealthy over the years, it is still something that I notice everyday. And, as much as I am aware, and as much as I try to redirect this process, it continues. 

The latest stage involves my relationship with my wallet, my stomach, and the contents of my refrigerator in my very first beautiful and amazing apartment. I find that more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself in a complete and utter panic, feeling guilty down to the tips of my toes about the kale that is rotting in the crisper, or the berries that I was too busy working double upon double upon double in a row to consume. I buy myself these healthy food options because I am trying desperately to take care of myself, but I simply do not have enough time in the day or enough room in my stomach to consume them. I find myself scheduling in meals according NOT to my natural hunger cycles, but instead to the number of hours in the day, the times when I think I should be hungry, and the amount of fresh delicious food going to waste in my home.

But I can’t keep myself from buy it.

In a conversation with a good friend of mine over dinner, I was finally verbalizing this problem that has been tormenting me for weeks now, finally putting into words the total fear and anxiety that – while seemingly minute – was consuming much of my waking hours. (This feeling is not unsimiliar to the guilt I feel about often hating my body even when intellectually I know better that I wrote about in double-shame-body-drama last fall.) And She told me to buy a pack of post-its. She told me that she had felt the same way, and the way she cured herself was to put post-its all over, on the refrigerator, in the kitchen, on the mirror, on specific food items, to remind herself that she was safe and OK and did not need to eat that if she wasn’t hungry.  That it was OK to have to throw things away sometimes. It was OK not to finish her plate. It was OK to say no.

What types of mantras might you need a post-it reminder of?

7 Comments to The Scarcity Model, Compulsive Eating, and a new fondness for post-its

  1. Amy's Gravatar Amy
    May 26, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    My mom was one of seven children and her family was VERY poor. And she stockpiles food. My parents have four deep freezers full of food. Seriously, four. Of course, they do plant a huge garden every year, but even that I think is part of the scarcity model. I don’t think she ever had enough growing up, so now she stockpiles too. She also keeps every thing. I’m pretty sure she still has most of my baby clothes and I’m almost 30. So the scarcity model works on even more than food! But I think we all have to get over the cleaning your plate phenomenon which was taught to us by our parents. Our parents who probably had parents alive during the great depression, which led them to be told to eat everything on their plate because of the fact that they had to work so hard for it. The great depression…still affecting us! Okay, I’m going to stop now. Time to work! Hugs!

  2. vanessa's Gravatar vanessa
    January 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Okay, so I’m a little late in arriving at this post, but I
    felt compelled to comment, and say THANK YOU. I thought I was the
    ONLY one who feels such immense anxiety, guilt, fear, etc. about
    the uneaten food in my fridge. So many things cross my mind: I MUST
    eat it now, at the peak of freshness, before the nutrition
    dwindles; I paid for this fancy imported food and I don’t want to
    waste money and precious transport fuel; I really, REALLY want X
    right now but Y really needs to be eaten; etc etc etc. You know the
    drill. But I agree with your friend: sometimes it’s okay to waste
    food. Nobody’s perfect, and by experimenting and saying no
    sometimes, I think we are better able to identify TRUE hunger, TRUE
    feelings, as well as become more in touch with our body’s clock and
    nutritional needs, and as a result waste LESS food in the long run!
    I know for myself, I will often feel a strong urge to buy a certain
    food, then after sleeping on it or even walking out of the store
    for a second realize I don’t actually need that food. Sometimes I
    get home and figure out that I DID want it, but that’s life. You
    live, you learn. But I digress – THANK YOU, again. This post
    provided huge relief for me :).

  3. January 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Were we separated at birth?

  4. sui's Gravatar sui
    April 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I love this post. :)
    sui recently posted..why I stopped purgingMy Profile

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Welcome! I’m Mara.

I’m Mara Glatzel. I’m an intuitive coach and writer. I guide women home to themselves and teach them to create lives brimming with supreme self-care. read more
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