I lost six pounds within the first few weeks of moving to Kenya, just like that, didn’t even try. I’ve attributed it to the fact that we drank a lot less alcohol there, ate a lot less processed food, the complete lack of corn chips in our diet, and well, the food just doesn’t taste as good. But then I had a baby, and, well, gained all that back. And then, well, right now I am fifteen pounds below my pre-pregnancy, pre-Kenya weight. I think that’s because of nursing and I’ve become more careful. I gained forty pounds in my pregnancy with Emma, afterwards I was a bit horrified so I was just more careful. Babies also don’t really let you sit down and eat. In those first few weeks I can’t count how often Scott had to set aside a plate for me during dinnertime or the times I only ate half my entrée because I was walking a restless baby around a restaurant.
Coming back to America this was one of my greatest fears. That I would unconsciously put that weight back on. How easy is it to take seconds? Or eat dessert all the time? These are luxury foods, we don’t need dessert, but yet our diets abound in extra food; huge portions, alcohol, boundless desserts. Chocolate used to be a luxury shipped in from afar, now I can eat it all day, every day if I wanted to, for actually not that much money.
We went to Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch, when I opened the menu all I could think, ‘Everything is going to make me fat.’ After hemming and hawing and sending the waitress back several times I decided on a hamburger and cut it in half.
We were invited to a get together on Saturday night, our friends have a brick oven built into their back yard and throw ‘make your own pizza’ parties. I spent the whole time with my inner monologue running in the back of my head in fear of the food. As I looked at the food I could’ve eaten a pizza, salad, fruit, beer, soda, flavored iced tea, chocolate cake, and dessert pizza. I didn’t, I ate my pizza, a beer, and a slice of dessert pizza. I wasn’t stuffed.
After this our friend, Ben, put on a documentary that his friend filmed called Dive, which used dumpster diving as a forum to talk about food waste. American grocery stores throw out food on the ‘Sell by’ date, a date set that does make food inedible but maybe less than perfect. In our litigious society these grocery stores fear selling any food than may make anyone sick. In our own kitchens we toss out food because of these dates, because we’re not really sure how long food lasts, and because it just doesn’t look good anymore. The documentarian, Jeremy Seifert, quoted statistics about how much is thrown away, and the food deficit between what we throw away and how much hunger there is. The one I can remember clearly is that one American household throws away six hundred dollars of food per year. In Kenya food went bad a lot quicker than it does here. I was horrified as I threw out cheese and vegetables that had gone slimy and black, and as I watched my money go right in the trash can. Hating to see that kind of waist I became pretty airtight, I only bought exactly what I needed. I would do food inventories before shopping and use what I already had, I would make meat, beans, veggies last for several meals. We became partial vegetarians because meat was expensive and of poor quality. I try to only eat meat once a day because of it’s expense and tax on the environment, you only need a piece of meat the size of the palm of your hand to fulfill your daily requirements for protein.
Having felt the affects of our overabundance on my own waistline I continue those practices here, people may make fun (they already have) of my efforts or call me self-righteous, but I don’t feel self-righteous, in fact I think that I am doing the very least of what can be done. But what is to be done? In the documentary they took some of the food from the stores over to a homeless mission. My mother-in-law takes leftover food from a local camp to the mission in town every Friday, she comes back telling me how much they have, so much that they don’t know what to do with it all. That the people who frequent the mission won’t take the nice leftover bread and vegetables, but will only take the pre-made junk food. She offered to buy some of it from them once, they wouldn’t do it.
What about the starving children overseas? I know them know, I know names and faces, stories, what can I do to take our overabundance and give to their great need?
Link to Movie Dive