diets · food

Want a Side of Self-Loathing with That?

Feature photo credit: Girl with Red Hat via Unsplash.

Any good food can be abused into the shame spiral of diet culture.  I have no problem with protein shakes, egg white omelettes, or cabbage soup.  Well, maybe I have a problem with cabbage soup.  Although borscht is good.  Anyway, B365 teaches it’s not the things we’re eating that makes something a diet but the mindset we approach it with, so I thought I’d play a game.  I have some old cookbooks, many of which are steeped in diet culture, and let’s see if we can take that diet food and make it a balanced, satisfying meal, yes?

Ok.

Book:  Food, by Susan Powter, (c) 1995

Weird diet advice:  Thicken soups with dried mashed potato flakes

Photo description: Recipe for broccoli soup, which includes 1 onion, 14 cloves of garlic, oil, water, 2 potatoes, 2 lbs of broccoli, some dill, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Recipe:  Broccoli Soup, p 373

I’m starting easy on myself.  There are actually recipes in this cookbook that I still use, decades after I stopped worrying about keeping my dietary fat below 15%.  But this soup seems, well, basically like sauteed broccoli in soup form.  Broccoli, garlic, some spices, and a couple potatoes.

So, to make this a balanced, satisfying meal I would add some chicken or tofu.  Maybe some cheddar cheese, too?  Adds some satisfying fat and some umami flavor.  Oh, speaking of umami, some mushrooms with the onions and garlic would be good and add a nice chew!

Book:  The Good Goodies, Stan and Floss Dworkin, (c) 1974

Weird diet advice:  Wax your cookie sheets and cake pans instead of greasing them to avoid added fat

Photo description: Liver and Onion Crisps recipe, in which they assure us that it isn’t a joke and it won’t taste like liver. Ingredients are 1 cup cooked brown rice, 1 oz. of fresh liver, and 2 tsp dried onion.

Recipe:  Liver and Onion Crisps (p75)

Ok, I’ve got my work cut out for me on this one.  I don’t even eat liver!  But, let’s say a person does and they’ve decided to eat it in rice crackers.  Seems like we could make it a more balanced meal with a hefty side of fruits and vegetables to make it more filling.  And maybe some cheese?  Or maybe that’s just so I can hide the taste and texture of the crackers.

Book:  Think Yourself Thin, Thyra Samter Winslow, (c) 1951

Weird diet advice:  Substitute mineral oil for vegetable oil when sauteeing. 

Photo description: Recipe for Fish Mold, including 2 cans of tuna or salmon, 1 cup cottage cheese, water, mayonnaise, lemon juice, galatine (sic), Worcestershire Sauce, salt substitute and onion juice, whatever that is.

Recipe:  Fish Mold

Yuck.  What was it about the middle of last century and savory gelatin things?!  Well, it’s high protein, so that’s nice.  Now it needs some fruits and veggies and some starchy carbs.  Maybe a big green salad?  And a pile of rice.  I learned living abroad that I could eat just about anything if I heaped enough rice on top of it before I chewed.

And there you go!  Three satisfying, balanced meals made from diet offerings.  Good foods and bad foods are about what you enjoy and what helps you live your best life, not mineral oil and gelatin.  

Do you have a favorite food that others might see as “diet” food, but you eat just because you enjoy it?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  Unless it’s fish mold.  In which case, no.  Just no.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found perusing old cookbooks, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

eating · food · running

Running Fuel:  Avoiding a sour stomach and what to eat after a run

Feature photo credit: Roman Koester, via Unsplash.

Does running risk upsetting your stomach?  Do you have to treat it tenderly when you get back home to ensure you’re comfortable the rest of the day?  How do you balance your nutritional needs with that overwhelming desire to live off of starchy carbs?

Saturday, I wrote about some of the meals and foods I can enjoy for breakfast that help me feel better during my runs.  Now, I want to address the post-run meal.  I come back from my runs ready to enjoy something, but not ready to eat.  I also want to reset my gut so I can enjoy more fibrous vegetables and satisfying meals with more protein and fats than I have usually put into that day’s breakfast.  Here are the “rules” that seem to work best for me post-run to help me avoid an upset stomach and get me back into my regular eating routines.

Rule one:  Have a recovery beverage asap.  I read somewhere that dehydration can add to that sour stomach feeling, and maybe it’s a factor for me.  So, I make sure to have some water with a little juice or other sugar in it right away.  I might not be ready to eat immediately, but I find having something cold and refreshing immediately following my run really helps me to get back to feeling normal faster. I’ve put two of my favorite ways to rehydrate below.

Rule two:  Keep food easy to digest for the next few hours at least.  Cooked veggies over raw, moderate fat, some low-fat meat is fine for a protein boost. 

Rule three:  Eat when I’m hungry just until satisfied, not until full.  After a run is not a time to stuff myself, which honestly isn’t a habit of mine in any case, but I have been known to keep eating when something is really delicious.  That overfull feeling doesn’t mix well with my post-running stomach.  It’s also not a time for a rich dessert.

If I follow these guidelines, I feel mostly normal and back to my usual eating options by the time for my afternoon snack rolls around.  I keep hoping that someday I won’t need to negotiate so much with my gut before and after a run, but after years of running, I’m beginning to think that this is just how my body works.  I enjoy running enough to keep doing it, at least one day a week anyway.  But if I couldn’t find a way to work with my eating challenges, I’m not sure that would be true.  I’m happy to have found solutions that allow me to integrate running into my weekends and still feel like I’m taking care of myself nutritionally as well.

Homemade Orange Sports Drink

This is my go-to beverage after a run.  I mix it up and either keep it in the fridge ready to enjoy when I return, or if I’m running outside of my neighborhood, keep it in the car to enjoy as soon as I get back to it.

Mix together orange juice concentrate with twice the cold water recommended.

Add a dash of salt.

If you’re a meathead like me, you can put your daily creatine powder in this as well, to check off that box for the day.

Stir or shake together until fully combined.

Ginger-Apple Frothy Recovery Drink

Ginger has natural happy-tummy abilities, reducing nausea and upset stomachs.  This is a great option for days when you’re really struggling to set your stomach right.

In a blender, combine until the texture of a slushie:

Candied ginger

Apple juice (or concentrate plus water)

Ice

Maybe half a frozen banana

Pureed Vegetable Soup

Whenever I get around to lunch, I want to get back to my full serving of vegetables, since I’ve avoided them before my run.  This soup really works for me.

In a large stock pot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and 4 cups chopped carrots, onions, and celery. Frozen is fine.  Don’t bother to chop anything really finely, because you’re going to blend it all up later.

Add another 4-6 cups chopped other vegetables of your choice such as more carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, etc.  I also like to add a red garnet yam for the sweetness.  Again, you can “cheat” and just throw in some frozen veggies, if you want to save time.

Flavor with 4-6 cloves of crushed garlic and 1-2 tbsp fresh ginger root.  If you want curried soup, also add 2 tbsp curry powder, 1 tbsp each cumin and powdered coriander, and some hot pepper (to taste).

Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is very soft.  This can take an hour or so, but you don’t have to pay attention to it most of that time.  It can burn as it gets close to being done, so check on it every 5-10 minutes or so near the end and give it a good stir.

Add 8 cups of (preferably homemade) vegetable or chicken stock.

Use a stick blender to blend it all together until completely smooth.  Add salt to taste and adjust seasonings.  Allow to simmer a bit to combine flavors.

I freeze this in 1-2 cup servings and pull out one each weekend.  It makes 10-15 servings, depending on how much you eat at a time.  When it’s time for lunch, I add some shredded chicken and a dollop of Greek yogurt on top. I make it a balanced meal with some toast or a muffin on the side.

Do you have dietary “rules” you follow to help you feel good after a run?  Have a favorite post-run food?  I’d love to hear them.

Photo description: Not my soup, but someone’s lovely bright yellow-orange pureed vegetable soup with fresh herbs and pumpkin seeds garnishing the top. Photo credit: Monika Grabkowska, via Unsplash.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found slowly cooking vegetables on the stove, picking up heavy things, and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

eating · food · running

Running Fuel: What do you eat beforehand to avoid a sour stomach?

Feature photo credit: Marcos Paulo Prado, via Unsplash.

What do you eat before a run?  Does what you eat impact how you perform?  

I struggle with a sensitive stomach on running days.  If I eat the wrong things beforehand, I get a sour stomach during and/or after my runs, which can send me rushing into the bathroom repeatedly and disrupt my appetite for the rest of the day.

Based upon my own experimentation, I have found a few rules for a happy gut and a good run.  Today, I want to share what I have found works for me before a run.  I’ll post later on what I do afterwards.

My eating “rules” for the meal before my run:

Rule 1: Eat something.  I run in the morning after breakfast.  I tried running on just coffee, and my energy tanked rapidly and the run just plain felt harder.

Rule 2: Don’t eat too much fiber.  One of my B365 habits is to aim for 2 cups of fruits and fibrous vegetables at each meal, but I make an exception for breakfast before my run.  Fruit seems to agree with me more than vegetables, but even then I need to be careful.  One apple or a banana is totally fine.  A cup of berries might cross the line into unhappy tummy land.

Rule 3: Focus on easily-digested starchy carbohydrates like hot cereals, bread, or yams.  

Rule 4: Avoid too much fat.  Fat slows down our digestion, and I don’t want too much food hanging out in my digestive track during a run.  So, I aim for enough to keep me satisfied and not hungry on the run, but not so much that I feel full or heavy.  

Rule 5: Get enough easily digested protein to feel satisfied. My preferred sources at breakfast are eggs, usually mixed with egg whites, and/or plain Greek yogurt.   

I let my gut tell me when it’s time to head out.  Some thirty to sixty minutes after breakfast, I need to use the bathroom.  When that business is done, I can safely head out to do the work.

Some menus/recipes that have worked well for me:

Oatmeal with apple (I’ve shared several of my recipes here), Scrambled egg/egg white, Greek yogurt, Coffee

Roasted sweet potato (with skin), Parmesan cheese, Scrambled eggs/egg whites, Coffee

All-in-One-Bowl Oat Bran and Wheat Porridge 

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 whole egg plus 6 Tbs. egg whites (2 large whites), or two large eggs
  2. In a microwave-safe glass measuring cup, bring to a boil (2 min. in my microwave): ½ cup soy milk (or dairy, if you prefer) plus ¾ cup water
  3. Slowly pour the hot liquid into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time.  This tempers the egg and keeps it from becoming scrambled eggs.
  4. Turn on the heat to medium under the egg mixture.  When it returns to a near boil, lower the heat and whisk in, 2 Tbs. Cream of Wheat or other wheat farina product, and 3 Tbs. oat bran.  
  5. Cook at a slow simmer stirring frequently until thick, about 4 minutes.
  6. Stir in cinnamon, 1-2 Tbs. raisins, 1 Tbs. of peanut butter, and 1 cup other fruit as desired (chopped apple, banana, peaches, etc.). Heat through.
  7. To serve, pour it all into a large bowl, plop on top ½ cup or so of plain Greek yogurt and sprinkle with a little brown sugar.

Banana Nut Pancakes

I make my own “pancake mix,” which is really just all the dry ingredients from a favorite pancake recipe, mixed together in bulk and stored in a container in my cupboard.  My absolute favorite of the moment is from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book (multigrain with buttermilk), but I have also used the Joy of Cooking Basic Pancakes recipe many times (subbing in some whole wheat flour).  

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together: 1 mashed banana, 1 whole egg, 1 Tbs peanut butter or 2 Tbs chopped nuts, ½ tsp vanilla, a shake or two of cinnamon, and enough liquid (water or milk) for one serving of pancakes (¼-⅓ cup for the recipes I use).
  2. Stir in the dry ingredient pancake mix for one serving (½ cup-ish on my recipes).  Adjust the texture as needed.
  3. Cook on a hot griddle with a tetch of butter melted on it.
  4. Serve with Greek yogurt, a little real maple syrup, and a couple eggs/scrambled egg whites.

These have been my go-tos for breakfast before my runs.  What are you eating?  If you struggle with tummy issues on your runs, what keeps you satisfied but doesn’t upset your stomach?

Photo description: A stack of pancakes and maple syrup on a fun glazed plate (with fruit designs?), a knife and fork. Photo credit: dazedream Via Unsplash

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found searching up new pancake recipes, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

fitness · food

10 unsung health benefits of oranges

We at Fit is a Feminist Issue occasionally receive topic suggestions from readers. Sometimes they’re straightforward (e.g. sport bra reviews), but other times less so.

This is one of those times.

But because you asked, we give you:

The top 10 (well, 10 at least) amazing (uh, possibly noteworthy) health-ish benefits of oranges (why did they leave off the s? Who knows)

10. they have antioxidants, which protect your cells against free radicals, which, uh, I’m out of explanations now…

9. they smell good, and smelling good is almost like being good

Mmmm. Orange. I feel more virtuous already.

8. you can juggle with them, which is a good physical and mental activity

Woman juggles oranges in front of board with xs and os.

7. you don’t need a prescription to buy them

Woman buying oranges in a grocery store. Bonus: that store apparently lets her ride her bike to the produce aisle.

6. even though the peel tastes awful, you can eat it too (according to this article: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/can-you-eat-orange-peels#benefits )

5. opening one with your hands provides strength and motor skills training

There’s a right way to peel an orange, says the internet. This is it.

Bonus public service announcement: if you happen to have an air compressor, little time and need a peeled orange pronto, you can do this:

4. even though they’re acidic, they won’t burn through your clothing

3. they’re yummy for your tummy

a cute creature offering us a yummy juicy orange.

2. if you have a few weeks, you can extract the oil to make, uh, extracted orange oil; look here for more detail than you thought possible on this topic.

1. they’re round, and the circle is the most perfect form (Proclus, Greek philosopher)

Round, real oranges in all their glory.

So reader, have you been converted to orange lovers? Are you maintaining your status as apple holdouts? Let’s talk fruit…

eating disorders · food · overeating

It is Time to Retire the Phrase “Binge Watch”

I’m done using the term “binge watch.”  I didn’t “binge” on the new-to-me Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast I found a few weeks ago.  I’m not “binging” on The Queen’s Gambit right now.  

I know many of us aren’t proud when we spend hours consuming content, but it truly isn’t the same thing.  We may be numbing out, which can be analogous, but binging is so much more than an act of self-sabotage and shame.

We would never say, “I refused to watch that whole series; I was totally anorexic about it!”  Ok, so in part we wouldn’t say it because it sounds weird, but more than that, we recognize that it is insensitive.  It makes light of a serious medical condition.  Binge eating can be serious, too.  And for the person who struggles with binging regularly, it is deeply painful.

My guess is that we are ok making light of binging because most of us unconsciously hold the belief that it’s ultimately an act in the binge eater’s control and shows their personal weakness rather than something larger.  Most people who habitually overeat believe that they are fully responsible for this behavior.  They have bought into the diet culture belief that overeating is a sign of personal weakness, not a product of their environment, personal food history, food availability and so much more.  Even if they are aware of the research pointing to these influences, people often believe that they can override them with strong enough willpower and discipline.

Binge eating, though, is a symptom of dieting culture and fatism.  People who chronically restrict their food, either in quantity or in type, are high risk for binge eating episodes.  Research suggests that even the thought of restriction, “I really shouldn’t eat cupcakes anymore,” can lead to binging episodes later.  In addition, binge eating is actually encouraged by food producers, and for a fairly large percentage of the population, we are susceptible to the cues–flavor, texture, visuals, etc.–to keep eating that bag of chips or stack of cookies until they are all gone.  However, most habitual overeaters, and most folks who are aware of them, will still put the responsibility squarely onto the laps of the eater, not diet culture and food manufacturers.

I don’t want to contribute to these assumptions anymore.  I’m not willing to make light of binge eating or to perpetuate the lie that chronic overeating is only about personal will and discipline.  No, when I sit down to re-watch all three of the Lord of the Rings movies in series next weekend, I won’t be binge watching them.  I’m just going to be enjoying my movies.

Can you help out, dear reader? What phrase can we use instead of “binge watch?”

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle science and health teacher. She can be found serially watching nostalgic, nerdy movies, picking up heavy things, and putting them down again, in Portland, Oregon.

food · nutrition

Happy World Vegan Day!

World Vegan Day is November 1st

In honour of world vegan day, here are some of our past posts on veganism:

Vegans and Protein: Yes, We Like It, Too

Trending now: plant-based eating

How to Get Lots of Vegan Protein

Can an Ethical Vegan Gain Muscle? Yes!

“Vegan” Is Not a Fad Diet

Eating Vegan: Not necessarily healthy, not necessarily unhealthy

Vegan for Weight Loss? Not Necessarily but Don’t Let That Discourage You!

When ‘vegan’ becomes code for ‘disordered eating’

“Veganuary” anyone?

Let’s Talk about the Myth of the Skinny Vegan Bitch

Vegan versus plant strong redux

Vegan, plant-based, plant strong? What’s in a name?

Vegan Sports Nutrition

Vegan Athlete of 2012 Contest

Creatv Eight on Unsplash
body image · fitness · food

Honoring my Hunger

CW: This piece reflects upon my personal experiences with food and food choices, with discussion of body size, diet culture, and challenges with body image. My goals may not be your goals. It is not intended as advice.

I had a moment of personal revelation this summer. I noticed something important about my self-talk. I wonder, can you pick it out?

When I went for a run and it wasn’t feeling good, I told myself, “It’s ok. I can do a walk-jog today. In fact, maybe I need to adjust my plans so that my Saturday run is always a walk-jog. I’m often just not feeling it on Saturday mornings.”

Sometimes, when I was lifting weights, I wasn’t having fun. I was tired and wanted to do something else. So I told myself, “Do these two exercises, give them all you’ve got, and then go ahead and move on with your day. At least you did something.”

I noticed that oftentimes I would get a little shaky in the morning between breakfast and lunch. It felt like low blood sugar, like I’d run out of steam and my body wasn’t managing it well. Each time it happened, I told myself, “It’s only been 90 minutes since breakfast. There’s no way I’m hungry already! Just ignore it. I will have lunch in a few hours.”

Did you notice it?

When I was struggling with my running or lifting, I accommodated my changing needs. Taking care of my fitness continued, but it was modified to help me manage stress, fatigue, and other limitations of the moment.

But when it came to my meals, I wasn’t being as flexible. I didn’t believe that my plan wasn’t right for the moment. I tried to force my habitual meals to be alright instead of trusting my experiences and the data my body was giving me that it wasn’t meeting my needs anymore. This was clearly diet culture seeping into my thoughts, motivating me to limit my food instead of trusting the signals my body gave.

And maybe it’s not a big surprise that I found some increased diet mindset creeping in these days. My body has been slowly getting larger over the last few years. Nothing dramatic, but at several life changes in the last handful of years (marriage, hysterectomy, worldwide pandemic), I’ve gotten just a little bit bigger. I’m now a full clothing size larger than I was before my wedding. And while intellectually I fully recognize that it “shouldn’t” matter, there are moments when this unintentional, slow increase in size bugs me.

My quality of life is not at all hampered by my increased size. It doesn’t impact me day to day in the slightest. I can still run, my joints don’t ache any more than they did a size smaller, and it may even help me with my lifting to be a bit bigger. However, I wonder if I’ve unconsciously “tightened up” my eating in response to increasing numbers? Have I stopped trusting in my hunger signals due to my discomfort over slowly getting larger?

So, I’ve made a new commitment to myself this last month to nutritional self-care. I have been running experiments to find out what balance of foods to eat that help me to feel really good, even when it means eating more than I’ve previously been accustomed to eating. I’ve noticed when I’m hungry and trusted that it meant I needed to eat more. I’ve checked in with myself at the end of meals to make sure I’ve genuinely eaten enough and to stop when I’m satisfied. I’ve been more flexible with my meal timing, eating more frequently some days when it seems like I needed it, instead of forcing myself to wait until the next designated eating time. And I’ve been making sure to eat dessert when I decide I want it instead of first trying to deny my appetite.

So far, these experiments have succeeded in making food and hunger less of a stressor in my life. I’m realizing that it had become a low-level, persistent focus, and now I’m thinking about food far less often. That shaky feeling between meals is gone. I’m also finding that I’m more at peace with my reflection when I feel better taken care of in general. My size very likely may continue to change. I’m still working on being neutral about that. But in these extraordinary times, I welcome any moment of peace I can find. Honoring my hunger, feeling really satisfied with my meals and between them, sounds like a wonderful kind of peace to give myself.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found eating salted caramel chocolate cake, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

Book Reviews · cycling · food

Book review: Felicity Cloake’s “One more Croissant for the Road” – food and cycling in France

Being in lockdown has left me, like others including Sam, with time to do more of some things, including reading. I’ve always been an avid reader, but in pre-Corona times other “extracurricular” activities occupied more of my free time than they do now. Given the dire situation in the real world, I’ve also given in to the temptation of reading as a form of escapism, and what better way to go somewhere when you can’t go anywhere than a travelogue?

“One more Croissant for the Road” caught my eye one day early in the lockdown as I was looking for a light and joyful read. The premise is extremely enticing: Felicity Cloake, a British food writer, decides to explore the culinary joys of France over a summer. She picks out 21 classic French dishes and decides to visit each one at its place of origin… by bike. The result is a highly entertaining dash across the country and a lot of eating, some of it – but not all – delicious. From Boeuf Bourguignon to Tarte Tatin, Felicity Cloake makes it her mission to try all of it, often on several occasions. In between, her trusty green bike and bright yellow panniers battle many a hill and zoom along many a country road (and some dual carriageways, too). All of it is interspersed with a second quest, that for the perfect 10/10 croissant.

It’s definitely more food than sports-focused, but One more Croissant for the Road makes for great quarantine reading. In addition to her light and humourous writing, Felicity Cloake includes recipes for each dish, so you can expand your lockdown cooking adventures if that’s your jam (see what I did there?) and you can manage to source the ingredients.

If you want to know more, here’s the official blurb from the publisher.

covid19 · diets · food

Could Covid-19 be the end of Keto?

Over a month of isolation, and there’s still no flour at the grocery store. There’s been a shortage of pasta, beans and whole grains like barley, quinoa, and rice, too.

Shortages of staple, high-carbohydrate foods would suggest that most of us are actually not ready to give up on this very satiating macronutrient in times of crisis, and it has me wondering, could Covid-19 be the end of Keto?

Consider the overwhelming evidence brought forth on social media–photos abound of the beautiful pandemic baking occuring in households the world over. Suddenly, we are all attempting peasant loaves, coffeecakes, scones, and sticky buns. Sourdough starters are being fed and tended like emotional support colonies in our refrigerators. In this trying time when we need comfort, these gluten-laden delicacies are reassuringly there.

Perhaps a silver lining to the dark storm clouds of potential pestilence and social distancing will be a rational redefining of priorities towards common sense balance in our diets. Maybe the #firstworldproblems of odd dietary restrictions, their pseudoscientific rationales, and the tribalism that feeds upon it will be pushed back a few degrees, back to the edges and away from the mainstream. After all, instead of sorting people into silos defined upon which sources and what quantities of carbohydrate we consume, social identities are now being formed around how frequently we go grocery shopping and our choice of face covering.

One could hope that during this worldwide crisis, when scarcity has new and pressing meaning, we can contemplate the real challenges of hunger in our world. Those who live amongst us without enough are the hardest hit right now, as they ever are in challenging times. With our attention on the needs of the many, perhaps we are moving away from concern about the needs of the few–and their pursuit of beach bodies?

Maybe now, with our social circles condensed to those we most love, we are moving away from judging one’s diet from a moralistic point of view towards a more caring, compassionate and practical one? What is good food and bad food in such times? In a moment when one of the few joys we can share with others is pictures of our beautifully baked bounty, we can ask ourselves if what we are eating is nourishing us and providing for us in all the ways. Food is not only fuel. It is how we show we love one another. It is how we build and maintain community. It is comfort and nostalgia and an offering to the divine.

All of these needs are real and present today. And in this time of need, we are baking.

I choose to be hopeful about this preponderance of home-prepared patisserie. I choose to believe that in a time when we are reaching for any sign of control, instead of cutting ourselves off from this resource, we are embracing it. Instead of giving into food cult identity, we are coming together. I have optimism about the essential goodness of humanity, and we are eating bread again.

Photo description: a lump of bread dough on a peel in a ray of sunshine.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She is baking while missing picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

eating · Fear · food · overeating

Food Scarcity as a Trigger, with a pot of lentils as an aside

CW: discusses food and eating behaviors, with references to dieting, food restriction and overeating

Do you find perceptions of scarcity triggering? I do. Food scarcity in particular, even the belief that it might become scarce at some point, can lead me to make self-soothing decisions like buying extra “just in case.”

I’m not truly hoarding food, but I’ve definitely got an especially well-stocked pantry at the moment. And chest freezer. And refrigerator.

And I’m settling into old habits like baking bread in batches, so there’s always some fresh sitting on the counter. Last night, when I made rice, I made a double batch. Now, I can freeze half of it just in case. And maybe now my lizard brain knows I will have rice, even though I already knew that, since I have several pounds of dry rice sitting in my pantry. But apparently, that primitive part of my mind needs the reassurance of cooked rice in my freezer right now.

I recognize that this is not a rational response. It is not in response to actual scarcity, but its perception. It’s true that when I go grocery shopping, I don’t have access to quite everything I want. However, suitable replacements are often available. My grocery store has instilled 2-can per purchase limits on precooked beans, and there are no dry beans to be found other than lentils, so I bought a couple pounds of those. My pre-pandemic meal preparations had me consuming 2-4 cans of beans a week. This week, I’m eating lentils. I have enough. But I can feel some uneasiness that I’m using them, like a part of me wants to just keep them on the shelf so I’ll know they’re there. I bought a whole, frozen turkey when there wasn’t any chicken available on one grocery trip. But I don’t want to cook the turkey. I want to keep it in my freezer, so I know I’ll always have a turkey.

This feeling of scarcity has led to some unplanned eating, too. It’s not so very different than the imposed scarcity that chronic dieters put themselves under. When we feel restricted, we tend to lash out and overeat eventually. Sometimes not so eventually. I am NOT restricting what I eat, except to recognize that when I eat something, then it is no longer available to eat! And so I suspect that is sometimes leading to me doing the counter-productive thing of eating ALL THE FOODS. I suppose I’m storing it in my body in preparation for the hard times.

These behaviors have long been a part of me–the uplanned eating and the food storage. Friends and family members have teased me for as long as I’ve been an independent adult for my tendency to can and preserve mass quantities in the summer and fall. I can freeze, dehydrate, can, bake, ferment and pickle with the best of them. For as long as I’ve had the resources to do it, I’ve kept 20-30 pounds of flour in my pantry. I keep bulk nuts in the freezer, and dried apple slices, candied orange rinds, and every kind of jam and jelly you’d ever want on my shelves. Every year, I put up apple and pear sauces and butters, whole seckel pears, pie apples, berries in wine pie filling (amazing!) and whatever else floats my boat. I have the habit of putting something on the grocery list the minute I open up the last back-up, so there’s always an extra bag of sugar or canister of oats. All of this was true right up to before our world was put on hold.

And yet, I still do not feel secure. I can see it in how I’m doing math every time I reach for something in the pantry. If I open this jar of berries, that leaves me only 2 more jars, how long can I stretch those out? Can I make them last until berry season again? Will I even get to go berry picking this year? If I make coq au vin for dinner tonight, that will be the last of the chicken breast in the freezer; will they have more this week, or should I plan on cooking something else so I can keep some chicken in the freezer?

I do not like feeling triggered in this way. I like to feel like I’m in control, and when I’m triggered, my more primal self is in the driver’s seat. And, of course, the fact that there are so many important things out of my control is in its own way triggering. I know, intellectually, that it’s going to be ok, but I wish there was a way to reassure my lizard brain of that fact. For now, I’m going to head down to the pantry and gaze upon my stockpile of homemade applesauce and try to contemplate abundance.

In case you’re eating lentils this week, too, here’s a recipe. It is loosely based upon one for Lentil and Barley Stew from the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook (Jean Hewitt, 1971), which was a staple of mine when I was a vegetarian. Today’s version has ground turkey in it, which you could completely omit and still have a lovely dish of lentils.

Lentil Stew with Turkey

one. In a large, heavy duty stock pot, sauté in a couple tablespoons oil and/or butter:
1 diced onion
4 large carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 tbs dried rosemary
4 cloves minced garlic
1 bay leaf

two. When the onion is soft, add 3 lbs. ground 93% lean turkey. Break it up with a wooden spoon so that it isn’t in big chunks.

three. Once the turkey is fully cooked and no longer pink, add
1 lb. green or brown lentils (not the red or yellow kinds that cook down into mush)
5 cups water, stock, broth, or a combination thereof
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes, with their juices

four. Bring stew to a simmer. Lower heat, cover, and cook at a low simmer until lentils are fully cooked, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This will be 9 2-cup servings for me, so I plan on portioning it out and setting some aside for my freezer so it’s available when I need a quick lunch, or you know, so I have it just in case.

Image description: A large pot of lentils, ground turkey, and vegetables. Maybe not very pretty, but it tastes delicious!

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found making fermented cabbage and using her bodyweight in lieu of picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.