Wednesday, February 14, 2007

S.O.S. (Snacking on Stress)

Let's talk about stress eating. Do you? Before Hurricane Katrina, I would have insisted that, no, I am not a stress eater.

I evacuated to a cheap hotel in Shreveport, La., on Aug. 27, about 36 hours before Katrina made landfall. I packed enough clothes for three days and had one pair of shoes. I would return home more than three months later. After three nights in the hotel, when it became clear I wouldn't be able to return home anytime soon, I dropped my mom off with a relative and went to Alabama to stay with a friend, along with my two dogs.

I watched CNN for hours on end, and craved chocolate. And ate chocolate. I normally am not a big chocolate eater. I downed bags of Snicker bars and Hershey Kisses. I took a break occasionally to have chocolate cake. It was a pigfest of the highest order.

One day, I realized, Hey, I'm a stress eater.

This morning at 1 a.m., I woke up to a frightened behemoth of a dog, slashing rain, intense lightning and high winds. Sirens started shrilling through the night about 2:30; it seemed to go on forever. I gave the dog a valium, afraid he'd have heart failure. Me, I had hot chocolate (sugar-free, of course).

I finally drifted off to sleep about 5 a.m. to be awakened by the phone at 6:30 by a friend wanting to know if we were OK. Tornadoes had ripped through New Orleans during the early morning hours, destroying more than 50 homes. Many were homes of people who had just rebuilt or were trying to rebuild after Katrina. An 85-year-old woman was killed in her FEMA trailer that was sitting in front of her Katrina-flooded, gutted home she was trying to rebuild.

All that to say, as I made my way to work--to discover the tornado had taken out a small corner of my office building--I wanted to eat. I sat at my desk--the only one who was a big enough idiot to go to work--and began casting around for something to munch on there in the dark with no power and no phones.

I found a can of unsweetened pineapple. I ate it. I found a box of cookies in the communal work area. I put one in my mouth but stopped before I bit down. I took it out and threw it in the trash. Then I turned out the office lights and went home.

Small victories.

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