So 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.