retail therapy

When Food Doesn't Comfort and Retail Isn't Therapeutic

You might still be recovering from the Game That Must Not Be Mentioned.

For us it was compounded by a death of a close person, and, yeah, Sugar-Free January was over, so here's how it played out:

1. We were sitting on the couch, trying not to think about things.

2. We wanted to watch something that would cheer us up.

3. Netflix was streaming William and Kate, a Lifetime made-for-TV movie, which you knew had to be awesome.

If this isn't on your Watchlist, it needs to be

4. Watching the movie (which was every bit as awesomely awesome as you could imagine) reminded us that we had a tin of Walker's Shortbread in the pantry--a commemorative tin with Will, Kate, and Baby Prince George on it.

Thank heavens no one took a picture of ME right after childbirth, and put it on a commemorative tin!

5. After a brief consult, we decided what better time to bust into a tin of shortbread than when we were depressed and watching a movie that insulted our intelligence? We made quick work of it:

I guess they couldn't shape them like Will, Kate, or Baby Prince George

Did we feel better? Marginally. But it was worth it in the end because the conclusion of the Lifetime movie must be seen to be believed--I'm talking big belly laughs that were unintentional on the movie producers' part but greatly appreciated all the same.

Then the pall descended again. The Game That Must Not Be Mentioned was not a hideous nightmare, and our friend was still gone.

You see, we turn to things like food and entertainment or even shopping so (to paraphrase Jim Gaffigan in Food: A Love Story) we don't have to "feel those feelings." A fine plan of counterattack, when resorted to only occasionally, to retain the element of surprise. (Kind of like what might have been going through the coaches' minds when they called for a pass instead of--oh--never mind.)

But when food or entertainment or shopping becomes our everyday go-to coping mechanism, that's when the problems start. Two examples from my reading this week:

Memoirist and blogger Andie Mitchell turned to food because she had an alcoholic, unemployed father, an absent mother who had to hold down three jobs, and a family dynamic that would take the mickey out of anyone. On the plus side, although Mitchell binged constantly and gained weight steadily, she attended the kindest high school on earth and still had popular friends, a hot prom date, and she got voted Prom Queen. Huh? Where was that high school when the rest of us needed a little understanding?

It Was Me All Along chronicles her journey through obesity, weight loss (surprise! it was exercise and portion control), neuroticism about eating, and then health. The food blogger in her comes out with elaborate food descriptions that certainly won't help anyone who struggles with obesity or eating disorders, and it turns quite humdrum once she loses the weight and gets over her fear of eating again, but it's worth a read.

Also worth a read was Stuffocation by James Wallman, who urges us to put down the credit card, quit filling our houses with junk, and get out and live a little. After taking the little mini-quizzes inside I realized this was not a book I needed to read (I'd way rather eat something than buy something), but I know shopping is many people's drug of choice, so I include it here.

Instead of buying a new car and drowning under the payments, instead of filling your closet with things you wear once a decade, instead of having the latest this or that, Wallman recommends quality time and experiences.

One great point Wallman makes, for why experiences trump possessions is that we tend to remember experiences positively, whether the experience itself was positive or negative. I can vouch for this--we took our kids on the "Santa Train" when they were little, an end-to-end horrible experience, thanks to rain and tantrums and missing shoes and fogged-up windows and Santa giving out toothbrushes, for Pete's sake, but now we milk it for laughs. Lots of laughs. The "Satan Train" has become a favorite memory because of its sheer awfulness. What possession can do that for you?

So if you're turning too much to food or bad TV movies or maxing out your credit card in the aftermath of The Game, may I recommend you replace these options? Call a friend and get together. Take the dog on a scenic walk. Make someone something. Curl up with a good book. Plan a getaway.

Heck--if none of those work, go ahead and watch William and Kate. It sure won't send you on a Lifetime movie binge.

Have a better week!