JUNK FOOD: Primo, Secondo, and Kummerspeck

November, 2021

Dear Readers: Hi, my name is RJ and I have food issues. [all: Hi, RJ.] These are compounded by trauma and loss I’ve been trying to process for the past ten years. For the first five of those years (and much of 2021) I used food to soothe my sad brain and weepy heart, and my body embraced this tack and very happily clung to the extra hundred pounds with which I was insulating myself. So, yes, I felt “better” but my coping mechanism clearly wasn’t a secret. Food was my comfort, and my shame.

two men lean over an impressive pasta; Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub in Big Night

My years-long deep depression took years to manage, and I am still trying to establish a healthy relationship with food that is separate and distinct from my mental state. I’m proud to report I had lost all that kummerspeck (German: “grief bacon,” or, mourning weight) pre-Covid, and have only backslid about 30 pounds from my svelte winter 2019 bod.

two men smiling at colorful risotto; Ian Holm and Stanley Tucci in Big Night

But the past two years have not been easy or kind to the 99% and these days my junk food movies are often accompanied by actual junk food, albeit homemade. The comfort and shame I’d felt from food in my deepest depression has morphed into pride, and anxiety over filling my house with bread, pasta, and pies; I make all these things and make them super well and then eat them. Even my gorgeous boyfriend and his hulking frame has had to say, Thanks but No Thanks, to yet another treat delivery, so I’m “forced” to eat the homemade pop tarts, or biscuits, or tagliatelle.

two men admire food between them; Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub in Big Night

But the satisfaction of making the simple and delicious food is cut with sadness, and the complicated emotions that surround actually eating that food. Thanksgiving, of course, brings these issues to the front of my brain but this year I resolved to pepper my dishes with gratitude. Even though managing my mental health is extremely challenging, I have tried to cook and bake and eat the food with intention, and love; I no longer season with disappointment.

I will let Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub say it better than I ever could in the dialogue-less final scene from 1996’s Big Night.