When i got up this morning, courtesy of my TWIN PEAKS ringtone at 7 a.m., there was a little chat bubble in my messenger on my phone containing a message from someone who is not always the easiest person for me to communicate with. It is a long story not fit for public consumption, but basically, every time I even think of this person, let alone receive a message from them, I get butterflies in my tummy, and they're not the happy fluttering kind. It's actually more like a murder of crows, like Hitchcock's THE BIRDS is being rebooted right there in my belly. Nothing against the individual, per se, because it's not a matter of a stalker or an axe murderer or anything like that. It's just a matter of a sort of nervousness that comes about due to some personal history.
Here's the thing though: Whenever I feel those freaked-out flutters in my stomach over anything - unexpected messages, bills and shut-offs, any communication from the IRS, weird noises in my car, a work in-box that resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa, family and friend drama, motherhood conundrums, regrets and guilts assaulting me from decades prior, sickness attacking me or those I love, anything that leaves unanswered questions or unknowns, or even something as simple and unimportant as politics or the wrong person being voted off SURVIVOR - I want to feed that gurgling, churning, uneasy bunch of birdies with something naughty. Simply because of that message this morning, which was literally a nondescript what's-up sort of thing, I was tempted to devour far more than my normal 300 calories for breakfast. As I made my typical three medium-sized eggs with oregano / pepper / paprika / salt / butter spray and pulled my 90-cal orange yogurt out of the fridge and started warming up my boyfriend in our new hand-me-down Keurig for our morning get-together, I felt like sneaking into the well-hidden stash of my daughter's Easter candy. Surely a Peep or two would make me feel better, right? Surely she won't notice all the pink jelly beans missing. Hey, if I eat one of those caramel eggs, that's less temptation for my cal-counting kiddo to deal with, right? All that sugar will get my adrenals back in check again so I don't feel like the love child of Sybil and Dr. Lecter over that message I got and all the work I have to do today. Sure, all these things might be true, but what is also true is that if I eat any of those things, that half-pound I was stressed out about yesterday is gonna stick around for next week's weigh-in, and it's gonna invite some of its nasty cousins back to the thigh zone too. I already know I'm gonna holiday cheat a little, and we have a family outing at Chuck E. Cheese tomorrow, at which I will eat a slice of pizza I won't even be able to justify by playing two hours of skee-ball, but there is no sense in letting stress ruin my counts today.
Thinking about all this, I realized something: Much of the weight I was carrying around for most of my life was likely the result of emotional eating. My emotions of choice are worry, anger, and anxiety, and I have far too often tried to quiet them with mindless munching on all sorts of digestive intrusions in large quantities. What I did not know is that there is actually a word for that kind of weight, those layers we put on the outside because the inside is feeling all icky. I am a lover of words, so I'm thrilled to learn this new one: kummerspeck. It's a real word, folks, a German one, with no English equivalent. (I find that interesting in a country that is deemed one of the fattest on the planet.) The closest we can get is a literal translation: "grief bacon." Grief bacon? Yep. The problem is that too much bacon devoured in grief stretches the waistband on those big ol' briefs! (Like that? As I said, I love words, and I love twisting them into rhymes, even if I'm no Seuss. It is yet another way I annoy my teenager often, though she doesn't find it quite as annoying as when her mother starts singing along with Michael Jackson in the overhead music in the grocery store. Nothing like moonwalking in the olive and pickle aisle to have your kid walking away from you at a full gallop, blushing 90 colors of red. Hee hee.)
We've all heard that clever cliche that is now the topic of too many memes: "Stressed is desserts spelled backward." (Or "backwards" if you live outside North America - another little editing tidbit for you.) That is often used as a joke, but it's quite true, and it really means this: "Desserts are really just stressed in disguise." If you don't want a speck of kummerspeck to show up on your scale next time, step away from the grief bacon and the Easter candy. Write in a journal. Vent on Facebook. Punch something (it burns calories and is harmless as long as the thing you punch isn't living or breakable.) Buy one of those stress balls and mercilessly squish the living heck out of it. Tear up a picture of your most disliked politician or that person whose messages drive you nuts. Cry, pray, or run around the block. Sing "Eye of the Tiger" and dance around your room in your PJs, Rocky punching the air. Moonwalk down the pickle aisle. Do whatever you have to do to avoid the kummerspeck, my friends, because no amount of stress is worth a larger dress!