Saturday, July 26, 2014

The summer blahs

I'm morally opposed to the common advice that you shouldn't shop for groceries on an empty stomach. When I'm at the grocery store, if I'm hungry I'll buy all the things I will want when I'm back at home and crave something. It's a win-win system.

But lately, I've been in a bit of a dip. There have been many things pressing for my attention, both at home and at work, including a number of distractions that seem to be the easiest to attend to. Given all the things that are vying for my time, eating is one of the ones that has fallen far down the list.

I've written before about forgetting to eat, but that's primarily about when I'm engrossed in a task and lose track of time. This is a bit different. Eating has fallen from a reward to a chore (in which I rarely find myself engrossed). In other words, it's gone from "ooh, I can't wait until the next time I eat at..." to "what, I have to eat again? But I just did that yesterday!"

I know that if I don't floss often enough, I'll get cavities, but that doesn't mean I'm keen on flossing. It takes a conscious effort to remember to do it. That's how I feel about eating right now. "Sigh, I guess I'll go out for lunch before I pass out or get a headache." Or, "I'm meeting someone for dinner in three hours, I should grab some lunch soon."

And then, once I've decided to go eat something, I can't decide what (well, not yogourt). I work in downtown Ottawa and there are plenty of great places to grab lunch, but nothing really sticks out in my mind as "hey, I like going there! How about I just go there!" particularly not among healthier options. It doesn't help that I'm a picky eater who doesn't like most things that make food "interesting" (spices, curry, tomatoes, mushrooms and more...), and that food I do like doesn't like me (the many many things derived from dairy, because they put cheese in everything).

My nocturnal lifestyle doesn't help. My workday is time-shifted so I can avoid morning and afternoon rush hours, as well as the lunch rush. Before the Mayflower closed I enjoyed eating lunch there, where I could take an entire booth to myself in the early afternoon instead of cramming into a tiny seat at noon with everyone else. (Side note: I miss the Mayflower! A photo I took from there was the main image on the Wikipedia entry for OC Transpo for over three years) Similarly for fast-food places: when you only have a limited time for lunch, why take it at a time where you'll have to spend much of it waiting in line?

The downside to this is that lots of lunch options dry up after a certain time in the afternoon, and similar problems exist for late night dining. Maybe if I had a lunch buddy I'd be more adventurous.

I avoid cooking mainly because when I do cook it's hard for me to start early enough to be done eating at a reasonable hour. The time I spend cooking can be spent catching up on other errands that I can't outsource to any of zillions of local establishments.

Also, I'm very fickle about what I eat. I am fortunate that I can afford to eat out for most meals, and that's important because I never know in advance what I want to eat. If I were to put a frozen item in the fridge in the morning to defrost it for dinner that night, I wouldn't see it again until days or weeks later, when its colonists make first contact with me declaring their shelf of the fridge to be an independent republic.

This indecision has been worsened with my recent lack of interest in food, since I don't even have last-minute cravings to pounce on. I remember incredulously seeing "lack of interest in food" in a list of symptoms for something at some point, and now I know what it means (hm, come to think of it I wonder if it's a side effect of my pills...). In his 2006 Ted Talk, Sir Ken Robinson talked derisively about how intellectuals consider their bodies as mere vessels to carry around their heads, and I have to admit that's a paradigm that fits me. My body will only cooperate with me if I give it food, and my brain wants to spend as little time and energy as possible doing so unless it's fun so let's just get it out of the way and read a newspaper or watch the latest Daily Show episode so I don't have to pay attention to the fact that I'm eating.

Which takes me back to grocery shopping.

I was at the supermarket the other day, and I did have few items on my shopping list so I wouldn't forget them. But when it came to picking out food to eat for the coming week (mostly prepared meals, since I try to buy produce from smaller shops instead of the big stores), I wasn't interested in any of it. I had a vague sense that I had bought certain items before and enjoyed them, but couldn't at all gauge whether I'd be likely to want to eat any particular one in the coming week.

You think shopping for groceries on an empty stomach is bad? Try doing it when you're not interested in food at all!

(And yes, I do give generously to the food bank. Hunger is a terrible thing.)

- RG>