These times are tough for even the most resilient, recovered soul.
Here in my home state of New Jersey, we’ve been in lockdown mode for a month now. My dining room is now a school house as we home school our three kids – ages 4, 7 and 12. All of our responsibilities have grown tremendously, with serious consequences.
All this time, I’ve had to have a two-week supply of food at a time in case we can’t get groceries. And even though stores haven’t closed, just “running out” to get something feels perilous now.
I haven’t thought this much about food in a long time. And it feels like I should add chief procurement officer to my LinkedIn profile since I spend a little time each day adjusting Amazon and grocery delivery orders. I click on things that I hope will be there – it’s a new sort of online gambling but with a grocery list.
Having two weeks of food in my home has been daunting. I could easily get lost in the overflowing cabinets, overwhelmed by the volume. So I’ve been somewhat methodical in writing out to pace how much we have – for our household of six mouths to feed – and how much we’re going to get. It’s kind of a long-term CARE plan (Consistent Attuned Regular Eating) as Eating Recovery Center calls it. It isn’t about restricting – but organizing planning what will be eaten when, moving towards a place of empowering clients to select foods from attuned needs.
Here are some other things I’ve been doing to help manage my thoughts about food during this time:
Eat by the clock.
I follow our cultural typical meal pattern of meals and two snacks throughout the day. I do this because before I started working with an eating disorder specialist therapist, one of my most common behaviors was grazing.
So, it is especially important for me now to take time to sit down and eat. With all the plates spinning at our house, it would seem easier for me to hide away in my office and eat there. But I make a point to eat breakfast with my crew and then come down for lunch. Dinner is a family-wide activity – and food has the gift of uniting us because it is more than just fuel.
At each meal, we talk about our favorite parts of our day. Finding things to share helps bring out the light. Sometimes we’ve spent so much time together that we don’t have much to say. That’s OK. Silence can be beneficial too.
No tech at the table.
This is always the rule at our home but especially now. With the kids doing online schooling and me managing the increased emails managing three schools (like drinking water from a firehose), it’s important for us all to take a break. I also try to avoid news after dinner time because I notice how I carry the emotions of it with me until bedtime.
Give a little away.
Each time I shop, I pick a few things that aren’t for us. When I set them aside for the Grace Pantry right down the road, I whisper to myself that I will always have enough. I grew up with scarcity. Before I started seeing an Eating Disorders specialist, I thought I would never have enough food. I have to remind myself to take down my anxiety about scarcity, especially as I see images of empty shelves. And as long as there is, I can spare some to share with someone who needs it.
Have a little fun.
One of the things my kids have loved doing during this time is baking. I have to remind myself that their motivation is not about binging. In fact, it’s about craving time with me and accomplishment. Also, I see recipes as science and math exercises, leading to a snack. The process of making stuff helps to pause the urge to the final product. It also adds mindfulness and appreciation to the process versus the focus on the urge and/or binge.
Most importantly, go forward with compassion and grace.
Just like each meal has a beginning and end, each day does too. And one of these days, this will all be behind us. Until then, we are with you.
(Special thanks to Lindsay Birchfield, Sr. Clinical Dietitian at Eating Recovery Center for thoughtful suggestions on this piece.)
Kara Richardson Whitely is the author of Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds, Weight of Being and is an executive producer on an upcoming project.
She serves as an Eating Recovery Center Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Advocate. You can follow her journeys on Instagram.