My Relationship with Food: It’s Complicated
The Family Gathering Food Interrogation (a.k.a. Jewish Guilt)
Did you have enough?
Well, have more.
Did you like it?
Yes! It was delicious!
Hmm, You didn’t like it.
You barely ate anything!
How do you know, where you watching me eat every bite?
I just know.
According to our Jewish elders, the food they prepared was never good enough, I never ate enough, and no matter was I said, I couldn’t change their minds. Feelings of scarcity, guilt, insecurity, irritation, and dissatisfaction squished in with the mashed potatoes, seeped out of the brisket, and sat heavily in our bellies.
When I was younger, I didn’t understand why food was such a big deal and why I was often pushed to eat more. More was supposed to make me satisfied, filled, fulfilled, happy, but the more I ate, the worse I felt. The more I ate, the more irritated I became with my family, the less I wanted to be around them, and the less confident I felt in my own skin. As a teenager, I saw most things through irritated-tinted glasses; although somewhere inside of me I deeply loved, appreciated, and admired my family, I took almost every word and action as a personal attack of annoyance. Sound familiar?
How Food Transformed Me
It took me years to realize that food is a form of expression, a gift of love. After all, food is what nurtures us, sustains us, becomes us. We are food, and we become food for this earth. So when you cook for someone, you are serving a role in their physical, mental, and emotional state. I really do get it now, grandma!
Growing up, I didn’t make the connection between food and how I felt. I was often tired, lethargic, uninterested, and moody. I didn’t want to be this way, but I also didn’t know there was another way that I could be. I just thought, “well, this is who I am.” Once I began to cook for myself, learn about what foods are healthy for me and which foods are toxic, and practice using food as a gift instead of a distraction or a way to repress my emotions, I began to see that there was a beautiful, creative, energized, intuitive, passionate person inside of me all along.
Food can completely transform you depending on how you use it. Sometimes I feel that my life is centered around food. I plan my day around it and use it to try to solve all of my other problems. Edible food is just one of the things that feeds us in life. Other things that feed us are rest, nature, relationships, career, finances, creativity, sense of belonging, and self-expression.
Food & the AT: Tying it all Together
Okay, I’ll get to the point now. This is an AT blog after all, right? Well, quite simply, food is what will sustain me and my hiking partners on this hike. Basically, our life will still be centered around food during this journey. Food and walking. Wake up, eat, poop, walk, eat, walk, poop, eat, sleep. Repeat.
I know it might be hard to obtain specific foods that I know my body needs – foods I can easily get in my off-trail life. And I also know that my relationship with food will probably ebb and flow along the Appalachian Trail. Kyler once told me that even though he very rarely drank soda before his ’09 thru-hike, he craved soda ALL THE TIME during his hike.
Because good quality, sustainable and nourishing food is important to all of us, we’ve decided to reach out to a few local companies for samples in exchange for reviews and social media shout outs. As much as we’d love to purchase it all and support companies we love, we just can’t afford it. I know a lot of other people have started doing this. And if we’ve learned one thing, it’s that smaller, local companies are A LOT easier to deal with in this regard. Don’t get me wrong, the large companies are great, but they probably receive dozens of inquiries a day from AT hikers. One company we’re ordering from is Garuka Bars, a local Vermont company who donates a portion of each sale to gorilla conservation in Africa. We’ve reached out to a few others and hope we can supplement our own mail drops with some foods our wallets just can’t buy!
Laura, Kyler and I decided that we would also love to somehow have our families woven into our journey. And what better way than through food?! After all, they obviously enjoy making sure we are satisfied and nourished to the point of explosion.
So, we sent out an e-mail explaining our adventurous intentions to thru-hike the AT and asked if anyone would be willing to support us along the way by sending maildrops. Already, many family members have agreed and are excited to send us food packages (through Hiker Box, which seems like an amazing company! P.S. A message to Hiker Box founders… you guys should get dehydrated/dried fruit). The response from our families has been humbling and inspiring. I feel comforted by the fact that we have such a strong support system; filling us up physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
And the best part? No one will be around to ask me if I liked the package or if it was enough. It’s always been more than enough.
Becca (and Laura & Kyler)
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Thanks for the great post. I’m a Californian doing the trail in 2016. I ended reading your post wondering how you plan to obtain your healthy and nutritious food on the trail? Out here in Coastal CA we have the most fresh and amazing foods at all stores which leaves me not knowing what to expect in the towns along the trails. It’s actually my one fear of this adventure. Knowing the disadvantages… Are you planning to do a large amount of mail drops? Or are you aware of wholesome foods that are sold in town stores?
Hey Scrappy, Becca here. In the post we mentioned Hiker Box, we will be directly family members and friends to this site that want to support us and send us maildrops. I am also following another blogger on this site, Julieann, who has some great tips. Recently, I just finished my certification as a Holistic Health Coach so it is important to me to be nourishing my body with healthy foods as often as possible. I am also trying to keep in mind that I will be craving different kinds and amounts of food while on the trail. I intend to be aware of those cravings and try to satisfy them because after all the body is incredibly wise and knows what it needs. However, I don’t intend to be too strict with myself…sometimes there won’t be high quality food available or we will find trail magic that includes ice cream and hot dogs and I will accept that gift whole-heartedly 🙂
In addition, I am excited to do a little foraging. I have been perusing through some books I found at the library and also seeking out expert foragers for some advice. I plan to have around 10-15 plants that I know how to identify and cook. We do not plan to sustain ourselves through foraging, but to use it as a means to feel more connected to our surroundings, self-sustaining, and adventurous. How incredible it will feel to prepare and enjoy food that was just picked moments earlier 🙂 Hope this helps!
Hi Scrappy, Laura here. Becca’s answer is pretty all-inclusive, but I did want to mention the one other way we will be obtaining the healthier and nutritious food that we’re used to is through getting donations or discounts from some local companies that we love. We discussed this in the “Food and the AT” section, but we have reached out to companies we love that make everything from delicious protein bars from honey, sustainably sourced organic peanut butter, and local meat sticks. It’s a lot easier to get these donations/discounts from smaller companies, fyi. Hope this helps!
I’m planning to do start in Marion, Va north to Maine. then go back to Marion and head south in 2016. Good luck with your hike. I’m looking forward to reading about it!