Food Paranoia

I almost titled this post “Food Insecurity,” but didn’t because A) food insecurity is an actual term used to refer to folks who may not be able to consistently afford adequate food, and B) the word “insecurity” doesn’t quite sum up the level of flat-out PANIC that rises up in my chest over this particular issue.

This goes back to the last post, regarding the health stuff I recently found out, and how I’m trying to learn to eat in a way that best supports my body – specifically, in a way that doesn’t involve riding a blood-sugar roller coaster every damn day.  😛

My doctor told me that I was a little bit hypoglycemic, and that I should be eating something every 2-4 hours (depending on what I was eating and how much of it I was eating).  I’ve been able to keep it around 3 hours, but I’ve noticed over the last few days that I’m hungry in the afternoon.  And not have-a-snack-hungry.  It’s more like I-could-eat-another-meal-hungry.  Which is weird, because I don’t get hungry in the morning.  I’m fine between 7:00 and noon, although I usually try to eat a piece of cheese or something before then, just to keep the chemicals balanced.  But I’m not hungry.

So I’m thinking it may be the amount of protein I eat.  I eat a lot of protein in the morning: usually a packet of oatmeal (one of those Weight Control packets, NOT for the weight-loss properties, but because they have extra protein and fiber, both of which I need to get more of), and I add some berries and a scoop of protein powder.  I figure I’m getting 14 or 15 grams of both protein and fiber, by the time it’s all said and done, but I don’t think I usually get that much of either one at lunch.  (This isn’t really all about food – I’m getting to the paranoid part.)

So I decided that instead of lunch and a snack I would eat 2 smaller lunches: one around 12:30 and one around 3:30, and see if that made a difference.  So today, I made sure that both mini-lunches were higher in protein than usual, and packed them into my lunch bag.  But I didn’t pack snacks, because, you know, I have 2 LUNCHES, and there are always snacks available at work.  Not always the healthiest ones, granted, but I’m not going to starve to death if I don’t pack a snack – especially one I don’t think I’ll be hungry for, anyway.

But not having all that extra food in my bag?  Freaked me RIGHT THE FUCK OUT.  I guess it’s a holdover from the days of rigid dieting, when I was done eating when my (little) portion was gone, even if I was still hungry.  So now I tend to overpack food.  I take too much food on picnics, to work, to potluck gatherings.  I pack more food than I can possibly eat, because it makes me so anxious and panicked to think that I might run out and be hungry.  I just cleaned out my pantry, and gave away 20 or 30 cans of soup that I NEVER eat, but I bought because they were on sale and I thought I’d take them to work for lunches.  Once in a great while I do throw a can of soup in my bag for lunch, but for the most part I cook and take leftovers.  But even still, giving those cans away gave me a stomachache from the anxiety.  Even though I knew that part of the reason I was cleaning out my cupboards was to make room for stuff I actually DO use, so I wasn’t exactly going to have empty cupboards.  But still.  I felt like a little kid having my security blanket taken away – and in a way, I was.

It’s amazing to me how much anxiety such a simple act can engender.  I just went over to the Starbucks here for my morning coffee, and I practically had to pry myself away from the pastry case.  Not because I was hungry; I’m not.  Not because I particularly WANTED anything; I didn’t (I can always eat a croissant, but I didn’t go in wanting it; that’s more like an impulse buy ;)).  No, I had to pry myself away from the pastry case because OMG I DIDN’T PACK SNACKS TODAY AND WHAT IF I GET HUNGRY AND THERE’S NOTHING TO EAT?!?!  Again, never mind that that’s TOTALLY IRRATIONAL, what with the never-ending proliferation of snacks in my office, the fact that I have a protein bar in my purse and the fact that the Starbucks?  Is ON my work’s property, so I can run over and get a snack there if I need one.  Never mind all of that; if I’m not in immediate possession of the food, it doesn’t count.  (Ironically, I’ve never been a member of the “Clean Plate Club.”  I can throw uneaten food away, no problem.  It’s just if I haven’t eaten any of it yet that I can’t get rid of it.)

There is, for me, a very real sense of security that comes from an overabundance of food, both on my plate and in my body.  It makes me feel safe.  And it’s worked very well for a long time, but it’s starting to affect my health, so it’s time to let that particular neurosis go.  I have to learn that I am ALREADY safe; that I’m not going to go hungry (assuming that food doesn’t suddenly become inexplicably unavailable).  That I HAVE ENOUGH. 

I have enough.  I am safe.  I keep repeating that to myself as the anxiety rises in my chest.  Sometimes it works.  I hope if I repeat it enough, I’ll start to believe it, not just rationally, but in my body too.  I think I will.  But in the meantime, that anxiety is an odd thing to suddenly become consciously aware of.

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8 responses to “Food Paranoia

  1. Wow, that’s so cool that you analyzed what was going on and figured out what was making you anxious. I know it won’t make it magically disappear, but it’s a great start.

    In general, I think it’s smart to have an abundance of healthy things around to eat, especially if there are more evil choices around to tempt you. But it is interesting that you’ve notice this exaggerated fear of being hungry. Sounds like the hypoglycemia might be playing into that a bit. Maybe your doctor could reassure you that while it’s best to not go too long without eating, you won’t DIE if occasionally you miscalculate and don’t have a snack right with you and have to wait a few minutes to obtain one.

  2. Yeah, I hear you.

    I think it has less to do with a “normal” fear of hunger though, than with the residual effects of starving myself for a long time (in college). I think my body and my brain are now hardwired to go into “lockdown-panic mode” as soon as I feel really hungry, in order to keep me from starving myself again. Because honestly, it was much easier to go without food (obviously, if I was starving, lol) 10 years ago than it is now.

    Does that make sense, in a weird way?

  3. Don’t worry about food so much or think so much about what you eat. I would seriously recommend completely filling a drawer in your desk with food, so there will always be things eat. I never go without food and do not believe in ever going hungry. I often get ravenously hungry at 10:30am and eat my big lunch then and keep eating until I feel full. The clock should be meaningless. If you’re hungry, EAT! And if a pastry looks good and would be something you’d enjoy — then enjoy it! There’s no need to deny yourself something you want. Food isn’t just nutrients and chemicals, it’s pleasure, too. And that’s a good thing.

  4. powerful post. and so COOL to be able to share all your realizations with you.

    Im all about the protein when Im feeling uber hungry—-and also the IF I CRAVE A MEAL AND NOT A SNACK eating it!

    but making sure it is clean and healthy (and often it is THEN that I realize Im not really hungry…just bored)

    thanks so much for revealing all this—-youre helping so many others.

    M.

  5. Rene, that’s actually a really good idea about keeping food in an office drawer. I might start doing exactly that for a while; it might be a nice bridge between storing lots of food (that I hardly ever eat) and learning to really listen to my BODY and not my neuroses, LOL. FWIW, that was the reason I didn’t order the pastry, too. It was my neurosis that wanted it; from a physical standpoint it wasn’t really something I wanted at that point, if that makes sense. But I do agree that pleasure is a central part of eating, and I’m not willing to give it up. I had a GINORMOUS bowl of Macaroni and Cheese from the Studio Commisary the other day, because their mac? Is THE. BEST. EVER. 😀

    MizFit, yeah, one of the things the holistic nutritionist told me was that since I’m a little hypoglycemic, when I feel shaky to eat some protein, but not straight carbs (even though I feel like I want straight-up carbs with a carb chaser). She said that the reason I’m craving the carbs is to spike my blood sugar, but that as soon as I do, I’ll just end up crashing again. So her recommendation was to eat some protein, wait a few minutes, and if I still feel shaky, eat some carbs in ADDITION to the protein (because the protein will help stabilize my blood sugar when the carbs hit my system). It’s actually a little strange to feel like I’m eating ALL THE TIME. That is also freaking out my little neurotic self. 😛 But I figure that’s not a bad thing, LOL.

  6. Hey Girl,
    Long time…great post. really enjoyed it. It’s amazing the things we do…the way we think…glad you came to this realization. I like Rene’s idea of storing food that should help some for sure.Take care,
    K.

  7. checking back in on you….

  8. I’m still here. I was thinking about writing last night actually, but was exhausted. I’ve noticed anytime I have to dig around in my psyche it always takes me a while to post again. I think it’s because any realizations I have always need some time to percolate. Ha!

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