“Help! My roommate eats all the food! What to do?”
A stressful situation like this calls for dire measures. To avoid calling the police or placing a laxative on his food (which I do not actually recommend), check out these top four ways to address this serious concern.
- Call his attention.
- Set mutually agreed-upon house rules.
- Understand the root of his behavior.
- Label food that’s yours. Lock them tight if you must.
For more of the tips, read further.
All’s fair in love and war. The same goes for your food. No one touches your food — not even your roommate. Oh, well, it depends, you may say.
Sure, there may be exceptions such as if you and your roommate are chums. Otherwise, this entails careful planning and execution – talk about strategies and tactics. Planning to the T is a must, especially as your relationship with food and your sneaky roommate is at stake.
1. Review and remind him about your house rules
We’ve talked about house rules for roommates in a previous article, and yes, they were set for a deep reason. Rules help us, humans, to maintain law and order and therefore avoid conflict. Rules, just like laws, promote the rights of one another and protect our general safety.
In this case, it’s your right that’s at stake. Since your roommate crossed the line this time and you feel that your rights have been violated, it’s high time to remind him of the house rules big time. Or is there really one? If yes, review them.
So, what again are your rules as roommates? What sanctions are at stake if one of you ate food without permission? Look it up once again on your rulebook and let your Black Book for Roommates do the talking.
To emphasize, here are some potential house rules you can reiterate when it comes to food:
- Whoever buys the food owns it. If the other wants to have some, permission must be sought. Without the owner’s consent, the other cannot eat any of the food. This has to be clear with both of you. If anyone violates this, you may set a sanction as well. Through this, you will have a clear understanding of expectations. If anyone disagrees with a stipulation, that rule can be modified until you arrive at a win-win agreement.
- Agree upon communal food such as eggs, milk, and others. You might want to share on the expenses and decide who buys which.
- Everything must be written down and signed by you and your roommate. This is to ensure that whatever you agree upon will be honored by each one when the time comes that you need to decide on something crucial (such as this one). No one will be able to deny that you agreed upon a particular house rule as there’s evidence to back you up.
Through these house rules on food, you will have more opportunities to achieve your ultimate goal: to live as peacefully and as hassle-free as possible. By setting clear agreements between you and your roommate, you’ll be at ease knowing that your every move is within the boundaries of good roommate relationship building. All that is left now is your roommate’s full acceptance and observance of these rules.
2. Get to the root of his behavior
Understanding why your roommate has been eating all your food will be a great help as you solve this dilemma. And trust me, it will work wonders if you apply these timeless psychological hacks I’ve discovered through careful study and analysis.
Oxytocin’s Role in Relationships and Food Sharing
For one, a Psychology Today article on food sharing derived from the study on the Royal Society Publishing entitled “Food Sharing is Linked to Urinary Oxytocin Levels and Bonding in Related and Unrelated Wild Chimpanzees” says that people who tend to share their food (or eat others’ food) often have elevated oxytocin levels (both for the receiver and the giver).
Oxytocin, by the way, is well known with mother and infant’s bonding. It is also active during social settings, pair bonds, and not to mention during the early phases of romantic love (when the brain is flooded by intense emotions) and friendship.
This, in turn, can have an impact on others’ desire to taste another one’s food – to feel that jolt on bonding or to make him feel that he belongs or that he is close to you. Its downside, however, is that it triggers emotions such as jealousy and distrust, specifically toward competitive scenarios and strangers.
Based on such explanation, we can now deduce that aside from learning about why others are very much comfortable eating others’ food, this can also place into context why you, the food owner, do not want your roommate from eating your food.
Another possible reason why your roommate is eating all your food is gluttony or binge-eating. With this uncontrollable urge, he gets more drive to eat whenever there’s a chance. According to Nathan Lents in his article on why we are programmed for gluttony and weight gain, we, pretty much like animals, desire for survival.
Gluttony, in this case, is our resort whenever we feel like we want to survive in this mad world. High-fat, high-calorie food become our go-to, with the notion that there may not be any good food out there in the coming days and weeks.
Practically, this is what lions, snakes, and other predators have in mind whenever they would consume so much food even if it seems that their bodies can’t take that large chunk of food in. Amazing, right? Yes, that’s the power of psychology.
Thus, in your case, if your roommate is suffering from gluttony, he may be going through this instinct for survival, too. He may be coping with something you might want to understand further.
On the other hand, your roommate’s behavior, concerning gluttony, may also be a result of stress, fatigue, boredom, and habits. If you pay more attention to the triggers of his behavior, you might encounter several hints that point to these.
For instance, having not much to do may lead him to look for something to snack on whenever he gets the chance (especially when you’re not around). It’s also possible that he may have this nostalgic experience with a particular food you possess – tempting him to get without your permission.
Another cause may be stress and fatigue, too. Your roommate may have this tendency to eat whenever he feels pressured. Tiredness and the negative emotions he may be keeping inside of him, motivate him to eat every time he gets the chance.
Any signs of these when you encounter him?
If so, you might want to talk to him heart-to-heart. Yes, you heard that right. Some catching up would be a great help. You’ll never know how far this simple gesture can go.
These, together with other possible reasons why he has been eating all your food, can help you uncover the triggers to his behavior.
By having a clear view of these, you are not only being a detective but more importantly, you are also promoting brotherly love for your dear roommate. After all, who would help one another but you both?
The Thing with Stealing
Aside from his relationship with food, another issue your roommate may be facing is a case of stealing. This, however, is not something to be taken lightly. According to Sheila Kohler, author and educator at Princeton, people steal because they believe they have the right to the thing they aspire. They think that he deserves that object more than others.
On the other hand, some are suffering from a condition called kleptomania or the inability to avoid urges to get items which are not theirs. It is an impulse control disorder, a condition affecting one’s behavioral or emotional self-control.
3. Create clear food labels
Being very clear about who eats what will be of great help, especially if you have a confused roommate. Let’s consider this: Your roommate has been eating all your food because he is not sure which is his and which is yours.
Grab that sharpie of yours and place your name on each pack of food you own. If you have shelves or compartments, you may also consider placing your stack of goodies in one part while his are in another. Just be careful of ink stains, though; you don’t want to mix them with your food.
To remind him of your food agreement, in a candid manner, talk to him and emphasize your house rules on food and labels. In this way, you can get the point across nicely, too.
4. Talk to him face to face
Since you are really sure that it was your roommate who ate all the food in your fridge, cabinets, and dining table, the direct measure to solve this dilemma is to talk to him personally. No IMs, texts, or phone calls. Confront him eye-to-eye and be upfront with how you feel. What’s important here is that you let out your thoughts and that this gets resolved ASAP.
Expressing your insights directly and personally has advantages:
- Fewer chances of conflict. By talking with your roommate face-to-face you can get feedback on-the-spot. No need to send messages back and forth. Think about not having to worry if you used the right word, punctuation marks, or emoticon to express your thoughts.
- Establish trust. Yes, you may just be casual with your roommate when it comes to communicating in the past. But this time it’s different. Consider having a more personal dialogue with him and sort out the issue. Look each other in the eye and let your other nonverbal gestures (plus your voice, of course) do the talking. Note that the majority of communication is nonverbal: 55% of which is for body language, 38% for the tone of voice, and 7% for the actual words uttered. Thus, it would be a huge advantage for you to maximize direct and personal communication.
- You would also be delighted to know that being able to see the person face-to-face, hear his voice directly, and see his facial expressions from various perspectives translates to a better visual. This, in turn, leads to being able to identify the mood of the conversation and faster trust-building.
Now, for the actual words to say to your roommate, well, it would have to be strategic as well. Since this is a crucial issue involving possible confrontation, you would benefit from using “I” statements instead of “you”. What did you feel when you discovered that he ate all the food in the fridge?
Communicating in this way is really advantageous especially since this technique is more therapeutic and less of an attacking way to deal with the issue. Instead of pointing at him for what he did (making it seem like he is a failure), you will be directing your words at the action he committed.
Through this communication method, you are promoting a non-direct way of dealing with the conflict. Tracing back to Carl Rogers, famous for his non-directive therapy, this approach advocates for creating a safe space for clients to express themselves during counseling. This is attained by portraying self-disclosure, utilizing reflective listening, and showing unconditional positive regard and empathy for the client. In this case, your “client” is your roommate, and you are the “therapist.” Sounds good? I hope this approach works for you; if it doesn’t, no worries, for there are other ways to try.
5. Discuss with your RA
Should there be instances when your roommate won’t listen to your reminders, still eating all your food, it may now be time to raise the issue to your resident adviser (RA). Sure, you may already be mature enough to handle the situation by yourselves, but this time it’s different. You did everything you could to mend the issue but still to no avail.
By involving your RA, you are just doing the best that you can to solve this dilemma, too. Your RA may be able to do the following:
- Counsel you as residents with regards to your food issue (still being part of the residence life system of your school or community). This is part of an RA’s job description, so it will be relevant to him or her. It’s still better, however, to jump onto this step once you’ve talked to your roommate about it and he doesn’t do anything to amend the issue.
- Inform the University’s higher officials regarding the issue and come up with measures to address it.
- Get you to transfer to a single.
6. Find another roommate or leave
Speaking of the last item above on how your RA can help, yes, if all else fails, you can turn to finding another roommate or leaving your room. Whichever suits your fancy.
As you see, if you are not happy with the situation anymore and feel like it’s taking a toll on you, it’s highly likely that you will be stressed by it as well. You don’t want that, do you? This may seem like a never-ending sacrifice for you, too, so to put an end to it, get out of the situation. Fast.
All in all, as you aim to settle your dilemma with your roommate eating all your food, by getting a good view of the situation and by learning about his perspective, you are sure to gain more clarity. Likewise, you can get better at deciding how to go about the problem. All these, with the help of a little bit of psychology and common sense!