Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes?

After many long years, I have realized something interesting about me and food: it affects my mood. By that, I don’t mean that I am more irritable when I’m hungry -although I suppose that’s true; I don’t mean that I get a sugar-high -doesn’t everybody? Actually, I am more inclined to feelings of guilt when I realize I am walking around with a full stomach -a too full one at any rate. Perhaps it is not guilt exactly -it’s more like remorse, or something… No, not that either; with a truly full stomach, the world seems a sadder place -darker, and less kindly disposed towards me. My thoughts are not happy either -they are inevitably more sombre, more negatively angled. But I don’t think it’s an Eating Disorder.

At those times, I do not seek a cleanse or anything -rather, I long for the cleansing feeling of a hunger soon to be sated; I yearn for the anticipation that immediately precedes sitting down to eat. I don’t long for starvation, or for a prolonged inability to satisfy the hunger; I am not concerned with my weight, or the diseases of overindulgence… I think I simply long for that hard-to-define interregnum between eating and waiting to eat. Strange, eh?

I am not blind to the insensitivity of treating food as if it were merely a talisman when for so many people throughout the world it is far removed from that. When you’re starving, hunger is not a whim; when you are unable to provide food for your family, it is not a game. Still, I am left with these feelings I cannot explain.

At first, of course, I blamed it on the type of food. Was it a result of meat? Of fish? Of store-cooked dishes? There was a time when I was certain I was prey to ‘meat dreams’ -nothing too obviously upsetting; more like having to sit through a string of full-length C-rated films at the movie theatre. But that didn’t always happen, so I put it down to Jungian archetypes about meat and left it as transactionally unconsummated as that. Chicken didn’t seem to engender special dreams, though. I never felt as bloated after, say, breaded chicken sticks as after beef tenderloin and mashed potatoes -but, of course, I never did a properly controlled placebo trial or anything.

Another thing I tried, was changing the timing of my fibre intake, wondering if my intestinal flora needed to relax at night, rather than having to call in extra help. I decided to eat my salad at lunch, on the off chance that it was the lettuce (and the nuts, and the raisins, and the olives and the red peppers… oh yes, and the tomatoes, and the onions, and the garbanzo beans…) that might be adversely affecting my postprandial moods. I even switched my brand of salad dressing from the zesty (and cheaper) No-Name brand, to the Newman’s Own olive oil and vinegar type, figuring I’d get an added psychological boost because it said on the label that all profits went to charity. The problem was that I never found salads did anything more than fill my stomach and bloat me up. What I really crave from a meal is satisfaction, so I found myself topping off the salad with a hunk of bread slathered with peanut butter and jam, and for the next few minutes, I felt great. Only as time wore on, did my feelings of hopeless despair creep up on me like a stalker. I would often punish myself by going for a run if it was still light outside and there was no snow on the ground. Otherwise, I would get on my elliptical and bury my angst in meaningless core development.

Sometimes, though, you have rise above these things; sometimes you have to actively seek help. Of course, the type of thing I envisaged was an opinion of a stranger who wouldn’t really have any investment in my life: somebody whose advice I could follow without them actually knowing that I had food problems.

The Food Court at the mall is a perfect venue for eavesdropper counselling, I think. They still have those Covid plexiglass partitions between booths at the Tim Horton concession, but if you really try, you can still hear the group on the other side -especially if it’s a bunch of construction workers whose rough bantering always seems to be arm-wrestling with their appetites. I’ve never understood construction jokes, so I have to sift through the chaff until they get to foodie talk.

“You’re eatin’ too much red meat, ya know, Jeff…” a loud voice sodden with mayonnaise suddenly rose to prominence over the food melee.  

That caught my attention, and I had to restrain my need to press my ear up against the plexiglass to catch it all.

“Whadya mean, Willie -what’re you eatin’?” Jeff said, putting down his Angus Steak and Cheese sandwich so he could see if he could accuse his friend of something equally unhealthy.

Willie held up his Chicken Salad Croissant and burped. “No bloating with this, and no need for antacids as long as I take the sliced onions out if I eat one at night.”

“What’s wrong with an ASC ?”

I soon realized that they ate at Timmies every day, so they shortened all the compound names on the menu.

“Nothing… It’s just that I read something about red meat and your body clock…”

“You mean the circle clock-thing…?”

Willie took a large bite out of his CSC and smiled at the word Jeff had used. “It’s called the circadian clock, Jeff.”

Whatever!” Guys don’t like to be called on a word. Nobody at Timmies wants to be peer reviewed.

Willie finished chewing and then qualified his wisdom. “It’s just that I read you should time your meals to your circadian rhythms so you won’t get moody, or whatever. If you eat at the wrong time, or eat heavy stuff like red meat before you lie down, you can get a lot of flak from your dreams.” He attacked his CSC and shrugged. “Apparently lunch is okay though -especially if it’s chicken…”

“You mean ASCs give ya nightmares, or something? What’re you sayin’ Will?”

Willie stare at his CSC for a moment. “Well, I didn’t actually finish the article, and I don’t remember if it was only if you ate red meat at night -I was reading in bed, eh? But it stands to reason. If you try to digest a hunk of cold meat after you raid the fridge for leftovers in the middle of the night- you’re going against your circades, or whatever.”

Jeff rolled his eyes and took a rather smaller bite of his ASC. “Jeez, Willie, you’re ruinin’ my lunch!”

Willie finished off his CSC, and issued what on his side of the plexiglass must have been a resounding burp. Then he smiled. “We always eat lunch at the same time of day, don’t we? That’s totally circadian…” He pointed at the half-eaten ASC in Jeff’s hand. “So go for it man; it’s a circadian freebie.”

The issue with any Food Court counselling, though, is that you’re never really sure of the provenance of the wisdom you overhear; nothing is officially certified. But the fact that Willie actually used the word circadian in conjunction with food is a good sign of the reliability of its source, don’t you think? I mean he had to have read that in an accredited magazine, otherwise I’m pretty sure he’d never have thought the strange word would have anything to do with food.

The real problem with his advice, though, is that I don’t like chicken salad…

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