I stared at the package of pancakes on the shelf. Pictured them warm from the microwave and slathered with Nutella. Imagined devouring them, one by one. I stood there in front of them for longer than I should have before I told myself to move on.
Before every move, I get overwhelmingly stressed and fall into the same trap: my relationship with food gets downright uncomfortable. It has happened for as long as I have been conscious of the association. Under the extreme stress of making sure I have all the loose ends tied up and packed away, I start to binge. Eating has been the only thing that I’ve found remotely calming in the midst of mountains of to-do lists and time-sensitive errands.
Googling the obvious “stress response and weight gain” connection that I suspected, I got some answers. Biologically, more stress means more cortisol production which in turn causes blood sugar to drop. When that happens, you crave crap foods full of salt and sugar: the pancakes, the ready meals, the sour cream and onion Pringles.
But I’m determined to be different this time. Sorting through my document junk drawer last night, I found a journal with some entries from before my initial move to Ireland.
6/14/2016: I put my foot down today and decided I needed to stop my stress eating.
I meant well, but when I got here I was ten pounds heavier (no doubt mostly comprised of MaGerk’s cheesesteaks and Natty Boh). Over the course of the school year, with a healthier diet, semi-regular workouts, and exponentially more walking than back in Baltimore, I lost 20 lbs and was back to my undergrad weight of 140. I looked and felt great. And I maintained it naturally.
But with this move looming over me like a dark cloud, I regressed. Tuesday, after flying back from Madrid in the morning, picking up the dog from Rebecca’s house, and rushing through a lukewarm shower, I got to work to find that the previous shift’s food had been delivered twice by accident. They had left a bunch uneaten and I made short work of it. A wrap, half a salad, and cup of soup down the hatch. Then I noticed the weekly shop had been done and someone ordered Kit Kats. Sure, I’ll have one of those. Wait, there’s cheese, too? Oh, and I brought some mackerel pate for those garlic crackers. I should grab one of those chocolate mousse cups before they’re all gone. By the end of the night, I was nearly busting out of my pants but contemplating making some ramen noodles.
So today, on my day off, after errands in the morning then spending four hours finishing 1 of 3 articles I have due next Monday, I felt myself again growing ravenous and headed to the corner Tesco. Glancing around, I experienced an overwhelming urge to turn into Taz in that (now vintage) Super Nintendo game — running down unsuspecting kiwi birds, leaving a poof of feathers in my wake.
And just like that, there I was, face-to-face with stacks of pre-packaged pancakes while dreams of Nutella piles danced in my head. I was tempted. I may have even reached longingly toward them. But in the end, I found myself dropping bagged salad, salmon, vegetables, and hummus into my basket. If I was going to binge, I was going to binge right, damnit.
Despite the ever-approaching deadlines and constant stress, I have been managing my time well and making steady progress. Next weekend, I fly to Madrid with Louie where he’ll stay with J in our new (and amazingly homey) apartment for the remainder of July. The last week without the dog will mean I can go nonstop. I’ve packed up nearly everything I’m not currently using and some things I am (wait, where did all my clothes go?!), and am listing some bigger items for sale on the Irish equivalent of Craigslist as well as Facebook.
As Molly has wisely advised me, in the end, I’ll donate/dump the stuff I can’t sell without another thought. I’ve already identified a charity that will pick up my mattress which is a load off my mind. For all my things, if I can’t use them anymore, I’d hope there is someone out there in need who can, or a charity that can profit from the sale. My main priority is leaving here free and clear so I can start my new life in Madrid.
So while my stress levels will likely continue until then, I feel I’m finally turning over a new leaf by not only identifying the problems this elevated cortisol causes but actively working to overcome them.
That said, excuse me while I dive back into this bag of veggies.