Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Look Inside My Pantry

Would you like to take a look in my food stores? Let's start with the freezer, shall we? If you dig through the huge mess that is my freezer, you would find:
  • 2 lbs. of premium candy (butterscotch squares, molasses chips, buttercreams)
  • 6-8 Reese's miniature peanut butter cups
  • some banana slices
  • flour tortillas
  • 5 or 6 muffins (low-fat, sugar-free, whole wheat)
  • homemade whole wheat and high protein bread
  • frozen white rice
  • steaks
  • pork sausage (very fatty)
  • bacon
  • blueberries
  • peanut butter cookie dough
  • a couple of orange-glazed donuts
  • a bag of mint and chocolate chips
  • a French roll
  • prepared taco meat
  • a couple of chicken thighs

Would you like to look in my refrigerator?
  • full-fat cheese
  • ice tea
  • full-fat and low-fat milk
  • whole cream
  • butter and margarine
  • a small carrot
  • one and a half avocadoes
  • a small tomato
  • about a cup of tomato soup (homemade)
  • 8 eggs
  • about 8 candy bars of various types
  • German marzipan candies
  • a quarter package of M & M's
  • salsa
  • coffee beans
  • apricot jam
  • about 3 rings of fresh pineapple
  • a bunch of condiments including mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, and soy sauce and about 2 dozen jars of spices
  • 2 tiny clementines
  • a sliced apple and ham sandwich for my husband's lunch
  • diet sodas and filtered water
  • Spanish olives, baby dill pickles
  • full fat Caesar salad dressing

Now, finally, would you like to check my cupboards?
  • 10 boxes of Fig Newtons
  • 8 boxes of strawberry newton-style cookies
  • sundry cookies of various types
  • loads of tea
  • 10 boxes of Triscuits
  • a box of citrus cookies
  • sugar-free hot cocoa
  • white glutinous rice
  • whole wheat flour, granular Splenda, sugar, brown sugar, salt, cocoa, wheat gluten, and other sundry items for baking
  • a huge quantity of mini-pretzels and a small box of flavored ones
  • a bag of cheese-flavored corn snack
  • 3-4 boxes of York mint wafer bars
  • Splenda packets
  • 4 bottles of Rum, 2 bottles of Kahlua, a bottle of whiskey, beer
  • a ton of diet soda including ginger ale, Coke Zero, and grape Fanta
  • the remains of a giant bag of Ruffles chips
  • a huge box of Cheerios and a dusty box of off-brand raisin bran
  • oatmeal
  • canned pumpkin, refried beans, one can of kidney beans
  • spaghetti sauce
  • a jar of dulce de leche sauce
  • jars of jam, olives, pickles, more coffee beans, a bottle of full fat Caesar salad dressing
  • rice crackers
  • 3 jars of cashews
  • a huge jar of regular Skippy peanut butter
  • a giant bag of butter and garlic croutons
  • two bags of licorice discs
Why am I sharing this information with you? I want you to think about what reading a list of the food someone has around makes you think about that person's eating habits and lifestyle. What kind of conclusions would you reach based on this list of food? Does it reveal anything about my eating habits? Of course, it does, but not what most people might think at first.

What if I told you that the reason there are so few fruits and vegetables on hand is because they always get eaten up and new ones have to constantly be purchased. What if I told you that there are so many candies and cookies around because it is taking a very, very long time to slowly eat them in a controlled manner?

What if I told you that this is the kitchen and food supply of a person who is still fat but has so far lost 130 lbs. and has absolutely no desire to binge on the ample amounts of goodies? What if I told you that the amount of junk on hand isn't a reflection of my lifestyle to any extent except that it shows how much self-control I've developed? It is this control which keeps my kitchen full of crap food, not a lack of it.

There is a test for delayed gratification that was done on children by a researcher named Walter Mischel. This test is commonly referred to as "The Marshmallow Experiment". The way it worked was that the researcher would put a few treats in front of a child and say that if he wanted to, he could eat them now, but if he waited, he could have the whole bag. Some children would gobble down the marshmallows. Fewer would wait. This experiment followed these children throughout their lives and indicated that those who did not eat the marshmallows but rather waited for the bigger reward had greater success in later life. In other words, the ability to delay gratification reflected or indicated the ability to make better decisions in all areas of one's life, not just in terms of food.

The experiment showed that those who learn to not act impulsively for short-term gains in one area of their lives are served by that capability. While the experiment may have indicated this is inherent, I personally believe it is something which can be learned through behavioral conditioning. It's something which I taught myself, even at the ripe old age of 45. It's the reason I'm blithely writing about my house being full of candy and saying it doesn't matter instead of complaining that I'm surrounded by temptation and believe it's my husband's job to save me from myself by removing all of the treats.

I want to encourage anyone who feels they cannot master their desires in regards to food to reevaluate their conclusions. I'm not saying that it is of value because one merely should learn to resist highly caloric food so it can be stored around their house, but rather because it will help you in all areas of your life if you do this. It will aid in all of your decision-making processes and promote control in all aspects of your life in which immediate gratification tends to be the short-sighted goal. Rather than avoid temptation, learn to resist it. Your entire life will reflect this capacity, not just your eating.


Sarah@LowStressWeightLoss said...

I love that Marshmallow experiment - I've seen video on it & it's hilarious to see the kids!

My kitchen looks a lot like yours, by the way - I'm an expat too and I stock up on things that are hard to find, and actually usually forget about them.

I remember years ago (before I was an expat) walking through Stockholm w my boss & we found ourselves in front of an "expat" grocery store that was full of American products imported. We looked at the spray cheese in a can, the boxed cake mixes, Oreos, hershey's syrup, etc and he said to me "can you imagine, that THIS is what you'd miss if you lived outside the US?" Very prophetic. Actually, these days it's less the junk and more the spices, sauces and a few specific items that I miss. My list of things at the Amerciaan expat grocery in Paris is short, but my list of specific things I haul back with me from an American trip is always on my iPhone...

Where are you living & how long have you been outside the US?

Anonymous said...

I confess that I giggled when reading your list! The little kid inside me thought: "YUM! CANDY! COOKIES!"

I once thought it would be easier to eat better if foods chosen only by me were in the house. Well, I had my chance went my husband was away on business for several months last year. Oh, I kept my favorite treats out of the house but I still managed to eat the same amount of calories in "healthy" foods. Of course I didn't lose any weight. It was a great experience for me.

Funny, though, I don't mind having my husband,s treats here at home but I do not want to have tequila in my cupboard. That lovely liquid was once a binge treat for me that is still a self imposed *no no*. Hmmm...