The no-appetite experiment

rs_634x1024-150420113901-634-kraft-mac-and-cheese.jw.42015So an interesting thing happened last week while I was in the death throes caused by the Worst Cold of the Decade. All at once and with little fuss, I lost my appetite. And by lost, I mean completely. No thoughts of food, no cravings for burgers and fries, no idea what to make for dinner because nothing sounded good. Even more interesting is it isn’t really back.

This is an extreme situation for me because normally my day begins and ends with thoughts of when I can eat again. Dinner planning either starts in the morning or days before if I’m being particularly organized. So intense is my craving for specific meals that I’d say a good 20 percent of my dreams are food dreams, ones in which I am tasting, with remarkable accuracy, cookies and cake and pasta and pizza.

See, even as I list those wonderful treats now, I feel nothing. No hunger pains, no desire. Just a low-grade nausea.

Of course, one would think the upside to zero appetite is weight loss. Because how in the world can you gain or even maintain your weight when you’re not hungry? Not possible, is it? The scale, with whom I reluctantly reacquainted myself yesterday for the first time in a week, said it is though. So possible it was staring at me plain in the face, and it had the number 6 in it. Unless you’re 116 pounds, no weigh-in with the number 6 in it is ever a happy one.

So I reevaluated. It was then I realized I had been eating, but only what I marginally wanted and, because I thought I wasn’t eating otherwise, however much I wanted. That’s how I bought the box of Kraft Dinner or, since I’m American now, macaroni and cheese. I’d been forlornly walking the depressing aisles of IGA, which alone should be testament to the fact that my appetite was gone, and I saw a pack of ramen. Was it still really just 29 cents? I thought of graduate school, how I used to dress it up with tofu and Velveeta cheese, and felt a brief spike in my appetite. Maybe this was the ticket. But then I talked myself out of it.

Only to turn around and see the mac and cheese box glowing from the other side of the aisle. Mac and cheese: the staple dinner when our parents were going out for the night and we were having a babysitter. Mac and cheese: whose cooking directions suggest 2 percent milk and 4 Tbsp of margarine. Mac and cheese: whose neon noodles I used to pierce on my fork and pretend they were logs of a campfire because mac and cheese is just that fun.

So I bought it and cooked it and ate the whole pot of it even though I wasn’t hungry. How was it? For the moment I had it in my mouth and was chewing, pretty good. I mean, maybe the word “good” is a stretch, I’ll say it was decent. It certainly reminded me of being 8. It certainly hadn’t changed and that was nice in an important way.

So I decided to tailor my non-appetite to foods that reminded me intensely of childhood. I didn’t actually go out and buy Jif, but I did have plenty of toast and peanut butter. I made my husband make me perogies with bacon and onions and sour cream and had milk with them. I bought a Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar because it’s the closest I can get to Canadian chocolate bars here. One afternoon, I badly wanted to go out and buy a package of Oreos, but didn’t have the energy. I honestly hadn’t thought about dipping Oreos into milk since I was about 19.

All told, my vegetable intake was nil. I subsided entirely on carbs. If I hadn’t felt so terrible, it would have been great.

Luckily, I am considerably better this week. In fact, all that’s left to come back is my appetite. But its absence has made me make some important realizations. I have to say, life is actually a lot less stressful when you’re not hungry. I’m not constantly fighting or bargaining with myself not to eat. There is no feeling of deprivation because the desire is gone. But, at the same time, there is a lot less to look forward to because food is such an intensely pleasurable thing. Hopefully it will come back soon. Until then, the experiment is an interesting one. Next stop: bologna.

Get out the vote

voting-sheetCONFESSION: I need to start and finish this column in exactly one hour. Deadline is at noon and it is 11 and I just woke up because I have a horrifyingly bad cold and I hadn’t slept much in three nights on account of a terrible cough but last night I did because I got some beautiful medicine from the doctor except I forgot to set my alarm last night so now I have an hour. Usually this sucker takes me two days — the first to write the draft, the second to make sure it’s not too ridiculous. Today I have 60 minutes to do both and I’m not making any promises, especially about the second thing.

It’s a shame too, because I actually have a very interesting topic this week, which is: For the first time since moving to Kentucky I was able to vote yesterday! (NOTE: If I had two days to write this thing, you can be sure I’d remove that exclamation mark because exclamation marks are embarrassing, but right now it seems like a good idea.) Yes, my motivation for wanting to become a citizen was so I could cast my ballot, which I did yesterday with perhaps not too much fanfare, but I’d like to think a bit of panache.

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Welcome to Fantasy Island

IMG_2080About three years ago, my husband and I took the most fabulous trip of our lives to Grand Cayman Island. It was just three short nights, but from the moment we arrived to the moment we took off, we experienced what it was like to live in a perfect place with a perfect spouse.

Last week, we returned to the same spot to learn that not all vacations are made equal.

I won’t go into nauseating detail, but let’s just say we are now acquainted with the hotel doctor. I fell asleep on a restaurant toilet after taking Dramamine to avoid sea sickness. We were attacked by crabs. And one day I looked down and saw that the back of my wedding band, symbol of symbols, had cleaved in two.

But the somewhat challenging holiday (and let’s be clear, I’m not complaining, the Caribbean is the Caribbean) has made me ponder the inner workings of the Romantic Vacation, a getaway that can be a whole lot more lovely in theory than practice.

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The Costco Run

20121013-100003When it comes to the Costco game, I’m a bench warmer at best — rather slow, slightly confused and marginally motivated. But, recognizing that my membership was about to expire and I had no plans to renew it, I half-heartedly made my way over there last weekend.

I hadn’t been since I signed up for my membership last year. That first time, I had wandered around the store with glazed eyes. But this time, I was a little more advanced in the game. Costco, Wostco, you can’t catch me, I told myself. I’m only here because I got sucked into the $100 executive membership because I’m stupid and now I’m trying to salvage some of my losses.

So I walked in. Or I tried to walk in before I had to show my membership card. Let me ask you this, dear readers: Do you have to try harder to be a customer at any other store? As I heard in an NPR article recently, most stores have people standing at the door welcoming you in. Costco workers are there to keep you out.

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The secret everybody keeps

IMG_2056Yes, dear readers, it’s time to discuss something we all have and yet very few people see. It usually comes out the minute we get home from work and stays with us until the time we go to bed. It’s not something we’re proud of, but it’s something we love and make a point of choosing every day. And yet it almost never comes up in conversation.

Until last week.

I was out walking with my girlfriend who we’ll call Fallula. It was a pretty day and we were, of course, talking about our husbands. I wish I could remember how the subject meandered in this direction, but before you know it Fallula was telling me all about what her husband changes into when … dum, dum, dummmm … he gets home from work.

Yes, the after-work outfit. The little workhorse that waits on the chair in your bedroom all day long and is almost never folded properly. The one that gets washed every week, rain or shine. The one that’s been with you for upwards of a decade. Whose shirt is made of the softest cotton and is frayed at the neck. Whose pants are a little too short and allow for excessive eating. Ah yes, the after-work outfit.

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The Giant Apple Pancake

IMG_0840I was frying apples the other evening in a desperate attempt to get to the bottom of the bushel we picked a few weeks ago. The recipe was for a sauce to top pork tenderloin, but the minute those apple slices started to caramelize in butter, all I could think of was pancakes.

It’s always amazing to me how transportive food can be in your life, how with just one whiff an entire slice of your childhood can be served to you like pie. Instantly, I had a clear image of me, age 8, back in our kitchen in Headingley, standing on a kitchen chair and mixing pancake batter.

It was the first thing I ever learned to make and, until I was about 19 and decided that deviled eggs would be my signature dish, it was the only thing I knew how to make. My dad taught me, showing me how to mix the dry ingredients and then the wet, how to melt butter, how to whisk and whisk until the lumps disappeared.

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Swings, seesaws and slides

Rocket_Slide_in_Edmundson_Park,_Oskaloosa,_IowaThe trip down Memory Lane continues, taking us to the playgrounds of old. I started writing about this last week after visiting a play structure at a nearby apple farm. There was so much to talk about I didn’t get much further than a discussion on the monkey bars, an essential part of parks in the 1970s and ‘80s.

But how can you really have a comprehensive conversation about playgrounds without touching on the swings? They are, after all, the most whimsical of all playground equipment, offering the biggest potential of dropping your stomach way in the distance behind you.

The swings at the parks I most visited were all connected to the swing set via long chains and offered a flexible canvas seat for good-quality soaring. Usually upon arrival at the park, we would find most of the swings had been spun into DNA-like twists that needed to be undone before any swinging could occur. This had been done, naturally, by the “bad kids,” who I always thought were boys perpetually in need of a haircut.

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Playing in the ’80s

86fb95d50310c9bf2b4ce27044a9787dWe were at Haney’s apple farm with friends on Sunday and it had gotten to the point where the apples were picked, the pies were eaten and the kids were high on sugar. It didn’t take them long to find the new play structure that popped up over the winter, a real doozy shaped like a barn complete with swings, slides, and climbing walls. As they bounced around and we watched them, it made me think back to our childhoods and all the fun we used to have at the park.

Back then, play structures were still called playgrounds and, as I watched the kids kick up woodchips as they ran around Sunday, it was for good reason. In all our hours at the park, we spent a lot of time on that ground, didn’t we? Either from getting whipped off the merry-go-round, falling off the jungle gym or landing hard on our tailbones off the slide. And that ground was hard, boy. Maybe, if we were lucky, it was sandy or even dusty. That seemed to help those crashes slightly. But usually, it was just … ground.

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My life in books

IMG_1784I’m trying to decide if I should trim back the books on our bookshelves. Looking at them right now from my vantage point at the dining room table, they really have gotten a little of control. They’ve essentially pushed aside all the pictures and other bric-a-brac that otherwise lends these shelves some levity, resulting in a messy, overgrown collection.

I never think books accumulate in this house, especially at the slow speed at which I read and my husband’s penchant for reading news online, but they do. Every Christmas and birthday, I give my in-laws and mom my wish list and every Christmas and birthday they come through. So here I am wondering if I should be charitable and pass on what we’ve been lucky enough to read over the years.

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The doctor is in

Materiel-medical-discountThis afternoon, I have an appointment to see a new doctor. And even though its purpose is to have a look at my lady bits, I don’t really mind. Because I actually love going to the doctor.

I realized this at the age of about 8, right around the time that hypochondria set firmly in. It started with a pretty consistent fear that I had a brain tumor, likely stemming from watching too much “Days of our Lives” and “General Hospital” on the button-tufted chairs at my grandma’s.

I’d wake up in the middle of the night pretty sure I could feel the tumor growing, prompting me to wake up my mom and ask her to palpate my scalp in case she felt anything. She was pretty patient about this, really, and soon everyone I knew became aware of my premature mortality fears.

This is largely because I started asking people about the looks of my general wellbeing.

“Think this freckle’s getting bigger?” I’d ask my mom’s best friend Jocelyn, splaying my fingers and pointing to a dot beside my pinkie. “Looks jagged-edged to me.”

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