the hunger game

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve managed to drop five pounds. This is very odd for two reasons.

Firstly, my usual weight-cycle goes something like this:

  • Maintain a steady weight for a while;
  • Feel bad that that steady weight counts as morbidly obese;
  • Think, well, at least I’m not gaining weight;
  • Enter period of life-change and/or excessive stress;
  • Eat everything that doesn’t run away;
  • Gain weight;
  • Think, well, so much for that whole ‘not gaining weight’ thing;
  • Hate self.

You’ll notice that there’s no period of losing weight in that cycle. Since like birth I can only recall two periods of losing weight. One was in eighth grade when, despite the fact that running made me feel like puking, passing out, and/or dying, I signed up to play basketball.(1) The other was a few years back when a combination of a) multiple, simultaneous life-changes, b) some girl, c) severe depression, and d) getting screwed over and not having much in the way money for quite some time.(2) Other than that, my weight chart has resembled John Holmes on Viagra.

The other reason this sudden bout of weight loss is odd is that I’m not putting much effort into it.(3)

I am not a person of action.(4) I’m a person of instinct and analysis. This may seem like a contradiction, but trust me when I say it’s the truth. So, one day maybe three weeks ago I noticed I was hungry. This was odd, since I don’t usually go more than fifteen minutes without eating something. Once I figured out what the sensation was, I realized I couldn’t do anything about it. I was too busy at work to grab a bite, and I didn’t have any money on me anyway. So I just went hungry for a while.(5)

Eventually I started to deconstruct the notion of being hungry, especially why it seemed to make me panic. Ashley doesn’t panic when she’s hungry, but her biggest fear is not being able to eat. One time the power went out and her first thought was, “How am I going to eat?!?!?” But I can understand this. She grew up with cystic fibrosis and had to eat at least twice as much as most people just to have the energy necessary to breathe. Having food around was a life-or-death proposition for her in a way that it’s not for the rest of us.

But me? I had no reason to panic. My parents provided for us. We never missed a meal. Or a snack. Or a snack while we waited for a snack. As I thought about this, it eventually came to me: I panic when I feel hunger because not feeling hungry was how I knew, as a child, that I was loved.

Now okay. That sounds like a load of Dr. Phil psychobabble hogwarsh, and I’m embarrassed beyond reckoning to admit it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.(6) When I feel hungry, there’s a twinge of panic that’s really just a cover for fearing that I’m not loved.(7) Again, this seems like a bad thing. But I figured out recently that all fear comes from inherently good places. In this case, the fear of not being loved comes from a desire to know I’m not alone.

To go back to my childhood, I often felt quite internally alone. In critical ways, I saw myself as different from my family, from everyone at my school, at my church, in my town. I turned to books to find people like myself, and I found the feeling of being loved in being provided for.

Now that I’m an adult, I provide for myself…except for that time I just told you about a few years back. That was when I learned how to carry on without feeling loved, which, as it turns out, was the necessary thing I had to learn and probably the reason I got into that whole mess in the first place.

A few weeks ago, when I was hungry all afternoon, I understood two things. If I can carry on without feeling loved, I don’t need to panic when I feel hungry. And if the fear of being unloved comes from the healthy desire not to feel alone, well, I don’t need to worry about that either. I just married the person I’d been looking for my entire life. Every weird girl I ever crushed on was Ashley. Every character I ever identified with was Ashley. Every person I ever wanted to hang out with for a while was Ashley.

So now that I understand that I can carry on when I don’t feel loved, and now that I know I’m never really alone, I’m able to view hunger for what it is: my body telling me it wants food. It’s just a physical sensation, much like how when you have no sense of smell a fart is just a funny bunch of noise.(8)

And so I’ve begun playing what I call The Hunger Game. Which, unlike what Katniss went through, does not involve killing children. Though I reserve the right to tweak the game at a later date.

Basically, what I’ve been doing is this:

  • Notice I feel hungry;
  • Remind myself to stay clam;
  • And carry on;
  • Or Fus Ro Dah, if I’m playing Skyrim;
  • Drink some water, see if that quells it a bit;
  • Otherwise just roll with it;
  • And see how long I can go before it overwhelms me;
  • And I start to consider eating children.(9)

So far, like I said, I’ve lost about five pounds. This doesn’t mean a whole lot since I gained a good twenty as the wedding drew near and I ate everything that wasn’t nailed down. But still…I’ve lost five pounds. It’s been years since that happened. And it’s never happened on purpose. So I guess that’s something.

But still. I have a way to go before I start taking my shirt of in public. Or even at home when the are lights on.

  1. Looking back, I’m not sure why the hell I did this. I don’t like watching basketball. I don’t like playing basketball. And I generally didn’t sign up for new things unless there were girls involved, which is how I ended up in home economics class and why I can cook and bake and mend my clothes but can’t make even a bookshelf. As in like one shelf.
  2. Normal people knot up their lives like they tie shoelaces: one pull and everything’s fine. Screwed up people like me make the biggest, most complex knot they can, and it’s one of those that the more you pull the tighter it gets.
  3. I know. You wish you could lose weight with like no effort. Yeah, well, I wish I could find clothes in my size in stores. It’s all about what you want to focus on.
  4. Though I am decisive. In an emergency, you want me there.
  5. It was a nightmare. You have no idea how many people order books about food from the library. (Ahem.)
  6. I am equally embarrassed, for example, to admit that I’m listening to Taylor Swift whilst I type this. And it is just as equally true.
  7. And while I’m at this level of honesty I may as well admit that I need to be loved more than I need anything. More than I need to believe that lightsabers will one day exist.
  8. Well, a funny bunch of noise that has the marvelous power to clear a room.
  9. Just kidding. I would never eat children. They’re basically incubators of pathology. It’d be like eating a burger from the wastebin at the Center for Disease Control.

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