Scarcity Mentality

My mother was a food hoarder. A family story I adore is that when my brother was in high school and our freezer broke, Mom asked him to wait for the repairman while she was at work. When the repairman looked in the freezer, he turned to my brother and deadpanned, “There’s nothing wrong with your freezer. There’s something wrong with your mother.”
I have inherited this trait, though my freezer is not literally bursting at the seams. But my pantry is stocked with way more chocolate than is strictly necessary and my freezer averages 3 bags of frozen broccoli. I buy 2 dozen eggs at a time, for a family of 4 that includes a baby who seems to have an egg allergy.
It’s so fascinating to me that I still have this pattern as an adult living in New York City. It’s one thing to hoard candy in your childhood bedroom-you truly don’t know when your next candy opportunity will be. But at this stage in my life, there is a 24 hour grocery store 2 blocks away from my home. I can quite literally get anything I want or need at any time. And yet. Old patterns die hard.
While I feel more secure in my home with a dozen eggs and 2 full bars of 85% dark chocolate always at the ready, I’ve been working hard to reverse my scarcity mentality in other ways. I eat gluten-free and mostly dairy-free, so sometimes I feel like there aren’t a lot of things I can grab if I’m out and hungry. This, of course, is nonsense and I can always talk myself down from having anxiety around that. ¬†Again, New York City. Seriously, I can get an organic, Paleo, vegan whatever at any time if I really need it. AND, it’s not like I’m out of the house for 12 hours at a stretch very often. And if I am, there’s a meal built in.
BUT, the tricky one for me has been around treats. Because my diet is relatively restrictive, when I find a treat I can eat, I feel compelled to buy it and eat it. There’s a gluten-free vegan bakery on the Lower East Side that I love and it used to be that any time I was in the general vicinity (ok, or simply on the F train with an extra 15 minutes) I would stop in and buy a dozen cookies. And whatever they had as on day old sale. And probably something else, too. And while I do love love love their cookies, the day old donuts aren’t even a little bit delicious to me. But I buy them because I’m there and who knows when I’ll be there again. Slowly, through some conscious thought management, I’ve come to realize that while it’s totally fine to hit the bakery if I’m having a massive cookie craving or there’s a special occasion, I do NOT need to go there if I’m in just the area and don’t really feel like a cookie. The truth is that I really don’t feel like a cookie all that often and when I do, I can have one. I don’t need to have one every time it’s available.
I think a lot of us go for things we don’t even really want because they’re there, they’re special and who knows when we’re going to get them again. One of my Sugar Purge participants just confessed to eating four candy Easter Eggs in one sitting and I’m betting that was all about scarcity mentality: I can only get them this time of year! If she had a massive candy egg craving in July, she could find those eggs online or a specialty store. Or a regularly shaped candy of the same flavor would taste just as good. But, really, I’m guessing that the candy egg wouldn’t even cross her mind in July.
This is the same thought pattern that operates at holidays, weddings, special occasion dinners out, etc. You might not have even thought you wanted a specialty cocktail, but there it is on the menu and you really have to try it because who knows when you’ll have the opportunity again. Guess what: if you really want to try that specialty cocktail sometime in the future, look up the recipe and make it. Food is NOT scarce, particularly treat food.
Does this resonate with anyone? It was extremely illuminating to me. I realized how much power the pull of scarcity fear has on me. I realized I was giving WAY too much power to food when that power is mine. And I haven’t popped by the bakery in a few months. But I know I can whenever I feel the need.
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