Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hoarding, Moderation or Just a Bad Habit?

One evening this past spring I was flipping through TV channels, trying to relax after a crazy-ass day at work by watching one of those reality TV programs that mean absolutely nothing. You know those programs that you just zone out to while your eyes are fixed forward in the direction of the TV? Those programs where when my husband asks me what just happened, and I can't recall. Well, in that mood, I found the A&E reality program, Hoarding. Hmm, I think to myself. Whatever is this about? So, I pick the program about a woman, a nurse in London, who hoards garbage. I find the program almost impossible to watch. Here is this professional woman, who looks very sad to me, showing her house to the camera man as she cuts a trail through old moldy food laying on the floor, piles of unopened bills, newspapers strewn everywhere, and clothes mounded higher than small mountains on either side of the path. And, this leads me to think about a woman I used to work with who had an obsession with school objects such as pencils and rulers and cafeteria food. Once, around lunch time as I was walking down the hall, she was walking towards me, an unsteady pile of 7 hot dogs on her school-cafeteria cardboard tray? A tiny little woman, what in the world, I wondered, was she going to do with 7 hot dogs? Turns out she stored them in a safe, a giant, used-to-be-in-a-bank type of safe, in her office along with her over-flowing stash of rulers, crayons, pencils and a pile of yesterday's cookies.

And, oddly, all of this leads me to think about overeating. It seems to me that that, too, is some sort of hoarding, an inability to operate under the notion of moderation. I love this moderation notion. In yoga philosophy, moderation is one of the keys to quieting the self. Ah, but that path to quiet is not so easy to wander down :) I see this in myself. I can eat a piece of toast with peanut butter or cheese for breakfast and my stomach is full yet I want another piece or maybe a bowl of cereal and fruit to go with. It's like stopping just when I have enough to still my stomach isn't enough...I am compelled to eat more although I am not hungry. This is particularly an issue for me at night when I am fully aware I shouldn't eat. And, I'm guessing it's why I have about 10 extra pounds (ye old muffin top) around my waist even tho I work out all the time and eat so healthfully that it annoys even me. I think my nocturnal eating is a form of hoarding. To me, hoarding is not about the object the distraught nurse flings on the stinky landfill that is her living room floor or the 7 hot dogs the little woman so carefully tucked away in a safe. Hoarding is a behavior driven by the need to have more, to fill what is empty and in that provide some sort of comfort. And I think, for me, that's kind of what my night-time over eating may be like. It's not like I eat a whole carrot cake at 9:15 pm (tho years ago I was known to eat an entire bag of chips or box of cookies when stressed!) but I do eat when I am not hungry right around bed time, most every night. And while I can say to myself, "Self, are you hungry?" I answer "No," while munching on a handful of calorie-laden peanuts and raisins, deluding myself that it's OK because it's healthy. I think if I actually thought, "You are eating when not hungry because there is something you are trying to fill up," I'd probably cry and then go to bed without eating.

Hoarding, or over-eating, I think, for me, is about not being OK with moderation because there is something I need to fill up or fill in but I'm not really sure what that is all about. Tho I am fully aware so much goes on beneath the surface (my unconscious, ever bubbling) that I don't pay much attention to as I live my little life working, working out, sleeping, eating, spending time with family and friends. Although when I recall a dream of my mother (dead almost 3 years now) peacefully laying beneath a wooden patio with red lips, bare feet, and a smile on her face I know I'm thinking about so much more than I actually reflect on during the day.

In the end, it seems so much easier to eat those 3 icy cold spoonfuls (at 100 calories a dip) of left-over frozen chocolate ice cream pie just before bed than to cry! Then, again, maybe I'm just in a bad habit. Or maybe bedtime is the very time to reflect on what moderation means to me. Maybe at the very moment (around 10:00pm) that I'm chomping down on that yummy piece of When Pigs Fly raisin bread spread ever-so-carefully with chilled, creamy butter, maybe this is when I should stop and reflect and tell myself, "Stop hoarding, use moderation, get out of that bad habit." Maybe the muffin top won't win :)

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