Sunday, December 2, 2012

Experiencing hunger

Hunger is a funny thing because so much of it is mental.

Yesterday I was in San Francisco for a party. An awesome party that I had a great time at. But this party had no food. There was drink - beer, wine, soda and water - but nothing solid. I knew this before I arrived and I knew I should have eaten a good dinner before leaving the house, but I've been experiencing food apathy lately and I just didn't feel like eating. I made myself eat two cheese sticks before I left so I wouldn't be starving at the party, but I couldn't make myself eat more.

When I got to the party, I proceeded to enjoy myself. During the course of the evening, I consumed two 1 liter bottles of water and a Diet 7Up when I got sick of water. Then, the party was over so I went home.

I am someone for whom thirst and hunger signals often get confused. This means I eat when I'm thirsty which is not good, but it also means I can sometimes get rid of hunger signals by drinking which can be good. It was good last night because there wasn't food.

Unfortunately, I forgot to use the facilities before I left the party and now I was sitting in the 16th and Mission BART station after having downed 46 oz. of liquid during a 3 hour period having to pee.

When I lived on the East Coast and found myself using public transportation late at night, I would often run into homeless people living in the bathrooms. Sometimes they were scary and sometimes they left a mess. BART "solves" this problem by just not having bathrooms in their San Francisco stations. I guess this works for them but it doesn't really for me. Which is my way of saying, this isn't the first time I've been taking BART in San Francisco and really, really had to pee.

It got so bad this time that I had to get off at the Powell street station and forage for potty. I found one at a nearby Burger King but you had to put in a quarter to open the door and all I had were dollars and pennies. There was a big sign saying bathrooms were for customers only so I got in line and ordered the fastest thing on the menu -- another bottle of water.

At this point, not having eaten much all day, I really wanted some food, but I didn't want to pee my pants in a Burger King and water was faster. When I got out of the bathroom, I thought about ordering some food but the Burger King was skanky and it was now even later and I just wanted to get home before midnight.

At least that's what I told myself. But the part of me that is still irrational about food was also thinking how great it would be to just not eat. I still find myself trying to eat as little as possible as if that's always a good thing. It doesn't help that my body fat percentage is higher than I'd like because thinking I could lose a few pounds of fat just feeds that dynamic where not eating is good and you can tell yourself that depriving yourself is a sign of discipline and not a warped relationship with food.

While on the train, I started to get actually hungry, not just faintly hungry. Luckily I carry emergency beef jerky in my purse. I was saved!

I got the jerky out just as I got to the transfer station and was munching on a piece when some homeless dude followed me off the train and asked if I had anything to eat. I could hardly say no as I noshed on jerky so I gave him the rest. Then he asked for some change to buy a soda, but I didn't want to take my wallet out at 11:00 pm in downtown Oakland. So I gave Homeless Dude my water.

He took off and I got on the Fremont train and everything was right in the world until I started to get hungry again. The piece of beef jerky I had in Oakland only lasted so long and now I had no water to fake my hunger signals. By the time I got back to Fremont, I was starving.

Which put me in a philosophical mood. Before I had my surgery, I was "starving" a lot. I knew I couldn't really be hungry because often I had just eaten. It wouldn't matter how much I had eaten either. I could eat a big lunch and be "starving" half an hour later. Knowing intellectually that I wouldn't die if I put off eating helped but it wasn't always enough because those starving signals were coming from ghrelin and so they were real, even if they weren't real, if you know what I mean.

But these days, if I am "starving" it's because my body really needs the calories and/or my blood sugar is dropping because it's been a while since I ate. These days, the hunger is real in a way I'm just getting used to experiencing.

Yet, just like it was before when my appetite signals were broken, I am not really starving. Not like Homeless Dude is starving or people in famine-torn countries are starving.

So even when I'm "really" hungry, it's still somewhat mental and it's definitely all relative. A year or two ago, I was sure I had it all figured out, but I guess this is one of those lessons that you have to learn over and over because these days it just doesn't seem as straightforward as it did when I was working out and so had a lot more leeway on my calorie intake and was happier about how my body looked in the mirror.

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