Battling the Comfort Food War Within

By Melanie Bates

I just found an unopened box of Bulgar Wheat that has been in my cupboard for nigh on seven years. In fact, I would venture to say if I had room in my kitchen for every health food item I’ve purchased but never used, I would be making Top Ramen in a room the size of the Duomo in Milan.

I have the best intentions. I really do. Having had endometriosis for over 15 years I’ve read theory after theory about how one’s diet affects endo symptoms and, over these span of years, I’ve cut out dairy, gluten, meat, sugar, flour, miniscule grains of dust, you name it. I’ve read books and then went on to purchase whole new sets of groceries from lands far, far away. I’ve researched recipes, thrown away all my “normal” food and been completely fired up. I’ve measured, sifted, and whisked with the frenzy of a new convert. I’ve sat at a table, alone, so that I may fully appreciate my food experience. I’ve taken that first bite.

And then I’ve dry heaved. Every. Single. Time.

But Have You Tried . . . ?

It’s heartbreaking really, and therein lies the story of a dusty box of Bulgar Wheat. As I perpetually whine to family, friends, and healthy eating converts they tell me, “You just have to get used to it,” “You just have to try this or that recipe,” “Tofu is really good, you must not know how to cook it properly.” But you see, I try, I have, I do. I just plain-ass don’t like it.

I think it stems from my DNA. I’m a foodie. My people, current and ancestral, are “kitchen people.” When we gather, we gather around the kitchen table or around the stove. I imagine even my ancestors probably gathered around the cave’s “kitchen” fire making guttural sounds over the roasting wild hog and begging for bacon. (A trait I indeed inherited.)

Food Memory

The memories I carry with me all involve food. Even those from 4th grade with my best friend Monica Wilcox and her family: biking on Sunday mornings for Dunkin Donuts, the first time I tried peanut butter on french toast, a homemade coffee cake that — despite years of effort and attempts — I’ve never quite been able to replicate, and packages of uncooked Jell-O eaten behind the school dumpsters resulting in stained red fingertips.

Reminiscing about Girl Scout camping trips 30 years ago doesn’t involve singing “Kumbaya.” I imagine we did sing such songs but what I can certainly describe in detail are the scout dinners we made by wrapping a ball of hamburger, some sliced potatoes, carrots, and butter in a cocoon of tinfoil before placing it on the fire. I can tell you about how the smell of those potatoes, oozing in butter, tickled my 10-year-old nostrils, or how the butter slowly dripped out and crackled in the fire. My first love affair with a s’more? Now that I remember.

For the past 35 years I’ve “watched” many Super Bowls. I don’t have a clue who played or who won. I don’t even remember the commercials I probably laughed at. But I can tell you about every strand of mozzarella oozing from my plate of homemade lasagna – my family’s traditional Super Bowl meal.

Birthdays weren’t about parties and gifts; I recall very few of either. But, with a clarity I can’t fathom, I remember my mom’s tradition of letting us kids pick our own birthday dinner. Mine was almost always Swedish meatballs.

Food is an experience. A feeling. A memory. I could no sooner let go of the memory of my grandfather than I could let go of a plate of my mother’s lasagna. I cling just as tightly to both.

Enter Kris Carr with all of her infinite food wisdom

But now I’m reading Crazy Sexy Diet by the gorgeous Kris Carr and I want to be crazy and I most definitely want to be sexy! I’ve had enough health issues over the years to motivate me to want to give changing my diet another try. With the past two years of full-time school and working two jobs, I’ve built a life preserver up around my tummy that would have saved the Titanic. (Okay, I exaggerate, but it feels that way to me.)

But must I give up that juicy filet mignon lying softly on a bed of rosemary polenta that I dream of on the daily and just live with the memory of food like my beloved Roger Ebert? I don’t know the answer.

I’d love to hire a sort of Healthy Eating Hostage Negotiator (HEHN).

I foresee the negotiations going something like this:

NUTRITIONIST: Melanie needs to eat way more fruits and vegetables.
HEHN: Okay, Melanie’s willing to eat more fruits and veggies if she can also eat mashed potatoes and gravy — the veritable Rolls Royce of comfort foods in her family.
NUTRITIONIST: Melanie needs to start drinking Green Juice.
HEHN: Melanie promises to drink green juice every single day — if she can have lasagna on the Super Bowl, beef Wellington on Easter, and smoked turkey at Christmas.
NUTRITIONIST: Melanie isn’t getting enough fiber in her diet.
HEHN: Melanie will surely eat her fiber on the regular if she can make her grandma’s homemade buttermilk pancakes slathered with 100 percent maple syrup on Sundays.

Now that’s the kind of healthy eating I could abide by. I could definitely cut out all pre-packaged foods, canned goods, and processed gunk — if I could make, and sloppily relish in, the hearty goodness of my most memory inducing meals.

What about you? Are there foods you can’t imagine living without? Do you need a Healthy Eating Hostage Negotiator or are your cupboards full of utilized boxes of Bulgar Wheat? Any suggestions for me?

Currently “crunching” on the carrots in her carrot cake,


Melanie Bates is a blogger for, creator of Femme Tales – Truth with Humor, and can be found checking expiration dates on her past health food purchases!



K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Fran C.
Fran C6 years ago

Is it better to live a long, long life, always missing those little pleasures, and undoubtedly making those extra years terribly dull and unappealing, or opt for a somewhat shorter life (perhaps...the verdict is still out, after all) that's lived to the glorious full?

Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago

I can totally relate.

Brigid C.
Brigid C6 years ago

HI Melanie, you have a great sense of humor, which helps! I don't like tofu, no matter what any one does to it. I do like lots of other grains, veggies and fruits though. Still want a sweet !

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan6 years ago

I love food and it is my biggest weakness,I have even given up smoking but cannot quit all food that is bad for me.

Erin C.
Erin C6 years ago

Everywhere I turn lately, it seems as if there are articles, ads, emails, etc. telling me new and different reasons to stop eating sugar--or at least cut way back. I know that would be the health-conscious choice. I kicked it once--for 2 weeks. I went cold turkey. For the first week I hid in my room because I thought I might hurt someone if they walked by me with a cookie, or a cupcake, or ice cream (and now I'm drooling on myself), or just at all. I wanted sugar--in any form and in any product that I could get it. But I didn't give in. And I felt much better the second week--more energy, fewer headaches. So while I know it would be better to cut sugar out of my diet (or cut way back), it's more difficult then I ever imagined. I mean, when I stopped eating meat I dreamed of ham and cheese sandwiches and woke up drooling on myself (sadly, I'm not exaggerating).

However, I managed to pull through and stave off the meat cravings--I've now been a vegetarian for over 18 years--cutting out sugar, well, that seems as if it should be easier...I wish it were. That and potatoes. And cheese. Oh how I love cheese. Give me a good piece of cheddar, some mashed potatoes and a cupcake for dessert and I'm in heaven. A friend sent me a package with homemade sugar cookies and extra frosting on them and, not that I've ever done illegal drugs, that was like crack to me. I couldn't stop eating them. Mmmmmm...frosting.

Patricia G.
Patricia G6 years ago

Moderation and balance is the key to everything in life. Take care of your health, my dear. *LOVE*

Janet W.
Janet W.6 years ago

Well, Melanie, I have the same problem you have. The only difference is, I am 69, have a problem heart and a love of food like you do. I also have a great many allergies and colitis. The food I eat contains all the veggies that are recommended but in extremely small amounts in order to keep the colitis in check. My problem is that the foods I love, like mashed potatoes and gravy don't bother me. Neither does fried food. I just have to learn to eat much less of everything than I used to. My 69 year old body doesn't like to quit eating at mealtime and I'm not a snacker, so I'm having a real problem trying to take less and less amounts. I may someday win the battle of the spare tire but I'm not going to obsess about it. My 41 year old daughter is living with me right now and she is my height (5'1") and weighs about 100 lbs, so maybe watching her eat might help me. She has the same love affair with food that I do; she just knows how to limit her intake.

Beth Weatherbee
Beth Weatherbee6 years ago

I love fruit and veggies!! But also love tea and chocolate and margaritas... oh yeah, did I mention ice cream?
Still, I eat lots of fruit and veggies and just learned today that chocolate is sometimes harvested by child I am glad to be aware of that...but yes, I understand the emotional attachment to food. Friends, family and food. The 3 Fs.

Thank you Melanie. You wrote a mouthful!!!

Kamryn M.
Kay M6 years ago