Yes, I think too much

“Empty Larder Syndrome”

with 9 comments

Most people have heard of “empty nest syndrome”. That’s when a mother finds herself feeling at loose ends, blue, or depressed because a child has moved away. I imagine (since I’m not a parent) that building one’s daily routine, not to mention identity around a child and then having that child fly the coop leaves a big hole in one’s life. Lately, I’ve been experiencing what I call “empty larder syndrome”.

In this case, I’m talking about the effects of food having exited my life as a source of entertainment, comfort, and even preoccupation. While I no longer want food to serve those functions, I nonetheless suffer emotionally without them because having so much of my life wrapped around something and having it gone continues to have an impact on my psychologically. The profundity of this continues to hit me in waves. The loss of food as entertainment or comfort was the first wave, but it was hidden or mitigated by the preoccupation with food that came with restricting my eating and food planning for the better part of the first year. Over the last 5 months or so, as the rumination on food and dieting dissipated, rather mercifully in most ways, I’ve come to realize that there is a profound sense of depression coming upon me.

One of the things that I have realized is that the sources of joy in my life are dwindling, just as a mother’s source of pleasure and purpose may leave with a child. Not only did the consumption of food comfort and amuse me (yes, we do “entertain” ourselves with interesting food), but the pursuit and purchase of it did as well. When I used to be happy to find some rare or interesting foodstuff, I now feel rather flat about it. The loss of irresistible temptation has the flip-side of the loss of elation when it comes to food. There’s one less source of joy in my life.

This would probably be okay if there were other things in my life that I was excited about, but I already expunged the habit of acquiring things (i.e., shopping) for amusement. Beyond that, I’m stuck in a holding pattern in my life because I will leave this Asian country and go home in about a year and a half. I can’t really start anything deep and new, and my options are already limited anyway. It’s not like there are tons of volunteer opportunities to begin with and pursuing them generally means forfeiting income or time, neither of which I can afford to lose as my departure  and all of the expenses that come with it move closer at hand. I have to keeping working now while I can. I have to push myself to keep losing weight. I have to do what I have to do, and it leaves little flexibility for discovering new joys.

I have, nonetheless, tried to find new sources of pleasure to cope with this “empty larder syndrome”. I’m reading more. I’m getting out more. I’m trying to explore available avenues, but the depression that comes along with this loss and others (which I will not discuss here, but suffice it to say, there are some other important issues at play which further gut the joyful times in my life) makes it harder to find the energy to leap with any enthusiasm into other pursuits. Frankly, as of late, I’ve felt the beginnings of near-clinical depression lurking in the shadows. For those who don’t know, one of the things that marks serious depression is the inability to take pleasure in anything. When you are in this state, you can’t pep talk yourself into new things, and even if you happen to manage, you likely will find them to be unfulfilling.

Because of this state of mind, I’ve found blogging here falling by the wayside. In fact, I’ve found writing of any kind (including the type I get paid for) to be a chore rather than a source of pleasure. It’s not just about the loss of food, though that is clearly a significant piece of this picture. It’s also about the added responsibilities that continue to pile on and a loss of more and more time and contact with my husband as time goes by (something he is working hard to do something about).

There’s also the inevitable “middle place” with someone who is trying to lose weight that is impacting my sense of happiness. I’ve lost immense amounts of weight (considering I started at about  380), but I’m still fat. All that I have done has yielded improvements, but those improvements are currently “old hat”. I’ve grown accustomed to them so they are no longer a source of pleasure. Now, I’m just fat with no foreseeable significant quality of life improvements in the near future. Sure, the numbers on the scale keep going down, but that was never a big part of what I was about anyway. Today, I weighed in at 103-104 kg./226-229 lbs, down from 107 kg/235 lbs. last month. (My scale is terrible and weighs in metric numbers, so I can never be sure of what the true number is – it always starts high and ends low so I go for the most repeated number or a reasonable average. In this case, it his 105 once, 104 once, and 103 twice.) This means I continue to do the “right thing”, but it seems no big deal. The goal isn’t to be something “good” (as I don’t expect to be greatly happier with my overall condition or appearance at a lower weight than I am now), but to stop being something “bad”. This is hardly a source of joy.

What is more, the constant need to push myself ahead in terms of movement continues to ensure that I experience pain all of the time. While my back has gotten much better, my knees are suffering from even my modest amounts and types of exercise. It starts to feel a lot like there some scale out there which has to be balanced so that I am always in pain. If one things gets better, another will get worse to replace it.

So, I have been losing weight, but I haven’t been posting. I’m not happy, and find it currently difficult to do much about it. That’s pretty much the end of that.


Written by yesithinktoomuch

November 1, 2010 at 5:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses

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  1. It is an interesting perspective you share here.

    If you have any inclination, perhaps you could entertain the possibility that the feelings you describe (“depression” “suffering”) may be unrelated to anything you identify as causally linked, unrelated to anything that you “think” may be influencing your feelings.

    If you read the earliest entries of your other blog, “SFG”, do you still identify closely with those experiences and with that “girl”, or do they almost seem like they happened to another, to a person who no longer shares your identity today? Do you now have to imagine that *lifeworld* for it is no longer the *lifeworld* now happening?

    When you write, “I’m not happy, and find it currently difficult to do much about it…”, perhaps there IS truly nothing to do. No secret steps that you could take to change things. No way for you to control an outcome.

    Perhaps. Life unfolds moment by moment no matter what thoughts pass through our minds.

    Observe that life seems to shift, subtly or sharply or slowly; life changes and flows through us no matter what we seem to choose to do. Suffering is fleeting, as is intense pleasure. Suppose you can only witness life being lived. The suffering of this moment will drift away, sooner or later, whether you *work* at making it leave or whether you merely watch as it passes.

    Anything can happen next. Anything. I just can’t help but feel this is awesome.


    November 1, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    • Risking the height of commentor rudeness by replying to my own previous remark, may I add that Wellbutrin, the antidepressant, has been shown to have fewer side effects than SSRIs, for many people, and does not appear to result in weight gain. It is also available in a less expensive generic version, although I have seen some problems with the generics. Please not this is not a prescriptive type of comment, merely a descriptive one, and sometimes medication can improve mood even though the way it works remains a matter of conjecture.

      I hope you are feeling better. (Depression is worse than a cat turd in a punch bowl. Don’t know where that came from, just hoping I guess to bring a little grin to your face.)



      November 6, 2010 at 3:25 am

    • Hi, Rebecca, and thanks for your comment. At present, I really can’t go back and read my other blog. Reliving any of that emotionally is more than I can handle right now.

      I think that the only way to know if there is a causal link between feelings and stimuli is to test the theory through introspection or exposure. If the link doesn’t appear to be a real one, then one moves on to another.

      The main problem with where I was when I wrote this post is that teetering on the edge of a state of clinical depression is not the same as simply being unhappy. It is close to existing in a state of joylessness where quality of life takes a deep dive. It is a step removed from not getting out of bed in the morning because there is not reason you can think of to do so. It is being unable to extract pleasure from the greatest or smallest thing. It is not a state one can merely remain in without taking action because the consequences are too dire.

      I spent over a year dragging myself through life in such a state, and it’s not the kind of thing you can ride out by taking life moment by moment. It is profoundly soul-crushing and beyond mere sadness or a state of feeling blue. It is not just a pit of despair that you find it hard to crawl out of if you fall completely in, it is one which you actively feel there is no escape from so you no longer try.


      November 7, 2010 at 2:45 am

  2. I’m sorry you are unhappy and in pain. I found your post and RNegade’s comment interesting and I am still thinking about them both a day later. Nothing to add, but I wonder what advice you would give to a friend who described the same situation in his or her life.


    November 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Karen.

      The question of what advice I’d give a friend is one which people tend to use who have studied certain types of counseling, particular those who engage in informal (uncertified) volunteer intervention of various sorts.

      If it was a friend, I’d recommend probing her life circumstances, experiences, and thought processes to see if there was a link or if there was a loss. In essence, I’d recommend she do what I’m doing.

      I’d also consider recommending she see a doctor and possibly receiving medication for depression if her life situation was such that she couldn’t escape some of the things which cause her stress or pain, though this isn’t something I’d every do as I will never, ever take mood-altering medications.


      November 7, 2010 at 2:48 am

  3. I hadn’t realized till now the extent of your chronic pain. Chronic pain can and often does suck the life force out of a person. The pain can intrude on every thought and activity without warning. I often suffer back pain and/or knee pain..sometimes intermittently, other times constant. I went to my family physician and was given a Rx to help me deal with these aches. I try to use them sparingly, but when the pain starts to make me moody, I know its time for an intervention. I hope you have a physician to help you control your pain.


    November 2, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    • You are absolutely right that chronic pain drains the life out of you. It’s like a small puncture in a tire that keeps letting the air out such that you have to constantly work to keep it from going flat. I think depression comes when I’m exhausted with this process and just essentially let the tire go flat.

      Physicians are not my friends and they won’t do anything about my pain except tell me what they have always told me – lose weight. The answer to every problem I have ever taken to a doctor has been the same, lose weight. I’m losing, but I’m sure I haven’t lost enough for a doctor to provide another answer at this point in time. If I’m still in pain when I reach a medically acceptable weight, then they may have another answer for me.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.


      November 7, 2010 at 2:51 am

  4. I recently stumbled upon and read almost all of your old blog, and followed the link across to read your new blog. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your beautifully written posts. Your blog is easily the most considered and insightful personal weight loss account I have read on the internet.

    Anyway, I don’t normally comment on blogs but I am delurking to say how sorry I am you aren’t feeling happy. I won’t offer advice as I’m sure you’re aware of the treatment options for depression, but I really hope that things improve for you and that you can keep contributing to your blog.


    November 5, 2010 at 11:56 am

    • Hi, Hannah, and thank you both for reading my old blog and for coming to read this one. Also, thank you for your kind and complimentary words. It really means a lot to me. 🙂


      November 7, 2010 at 2:53 am

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