My biggest vice: GUILT

Confession: I HATE THROWING FOOD AWAY.

You may or may not understand the emotional agony I suffer when I can’t finish what’s on my plate. There’s lots of reasons for it.

I grew up living with an Italian grandma who you would think put food on the table by opening up her veins and letting it drip out onto our plates. At least that’s the impression I got everytime I wasn’t hungry or didn’t want to finish my food. Her reactions ranged from: “What? You don’t like my cooking?” to “You don’t love me anymore?!?!” So I ate it, even if I was full, because if you make grandma cry you’re the worst kid ever.

I went to school and was taught by Catholic nuns who grew up in Irish poverty and used to wag their fingers at us kids if we tried to throw away half a sandwich. They would give us some guilt trip like: “My 7 brothers and sisters would have scratched each others’ eyes out for that sandwich you’re going to dump.” Such a sin.

I was also a journalist for most of my career and met many many families in need of food. They line up HOURS before the food pantry opens (in the rain and snow sometimes) so they can have first crack at the inventory — usually boxed food from a local grocery store that’s past its expiration date. Yum? Thanksgiving time was the worst because the pantries didn’t have turkeys for everyone so the lines started the night before the pantry even opened. It was really humbling to see people worry about whether or not they were going to have turkey on Thanksgiving — something that I have never had to worry about. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, I had to cover a story about the idiots who wait outside Best Buy all night after Thanksgiving dinner to get 50% off a TV. Priorities.

Then there’s the environment. Damn Leo DiCaprio talking about how the Earth is in trouble because there’s too much garbage and stuff. How can I possibly add to the landfill problem by throwing away my food?

As you can see the guilt of throwing away perfectly edible food has plagued me through every  stage of life. No matter how detrimental it could be to my health, I got relief from absorbing the physical pain as to not impart any emotional pain on others — most of whom would never see me throw away food in the privacy of my own apartment.

My point is, we all have mental blocks and irrational thoughts that cause us to make choices that contradict what we really want in life. I have identified (one of) mine. Eating out of guilt is something I may never get over. I manage it in some ways. I buy less food at the supermarket, order less at restaurants, say no firmly and politely when offered something I don’t want, and just plain wait until the guilty feelings pass.

Fasting also helps ease the guilt: for one day a week I don’t worry about wasting food or overeating. While fasting brings up other feelings: hunger, anger, annoyance, irritation — guilt is not one of them. It’s one more benefit of fasting, giving me some peace of mind in the midst of what can be an otherwise stressful time. 

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