Decembeard 6, 2011: Burger-Shaped Emptiness

To the 'stache, I'm adding a soul patch, goatee and sideburns (not yet visible).

What is it about the late-night craving that is so intense?

I’ve already had my supper. I ate lunch. I had a bagel for breakfast. Sure, the meals weren’t grand and huge, but they were tasty. Ok, maybe I didn’t entirely feel satisfied after each meal, but that’s normal, right? You’re not supposed to feel full, right?

But later that night, I’m feeling peckish. That is to say, stark raving hungry. I could eat a horse (provided you could cook it), or at least a small flock of birds. Someone mentions running out for a late-night burger, and suddenly: I’m ravenous.

So, I try to satiate the beast. I have a bun. A bagel is unfrozen. Maybe a cookie.

Nothing works. It’s like this worm (mealworm?) burrowed into my thoughts, and all I can think of is the succulent satisfaction of the late-night burger. Suddenly, it’s all I can consider. All my healthier snacks are forgotten, my meagre supplies of cookable on-hand food forgotten.

I should say: I have often had less-than-healthy-but-satisfying snacks on hand. I recently stopped buying chips, in favour of low salt/no salt mixed nuts. But they don’t satisfy. They don’t feel like eating, they feel like I’m going through the motions. I’m not filling myself, I’m fulfilling a quota of good karma eating.

It’s distracting. I can’t think of anything else. I throw myself into a game of Carcassonne on the iPod, hoping to forget about the gnawing hunger that churns in the pit of my stomach and the steadily-rising tide of saliva thats building, all in anticipation of That Which I Will Not Have.

Most days, I’ve given in, gone to get the late-night burger. Eaten it, felt a little regret, but mostly just felt full, completely, satisfyingly full. 

Tonight, I’ve stalled long enough! Willpower has won out over cravings, at least so far as it has prevented me from going until the burger joint is closed.

But the joke is on me: I’m still hungry.

Hungry, and now I’m mad at myself, because if I’d just given in an hour-and-a-half ago, I could rest easy now. My mind wouldn’t be racing back to dredge up and replay countless memories of glorious burger satiation.

My next choices are to lie down until it goes away, find something to cook, or go to the 24-hour Chinese-Canadian restaurant, the centre of night-owl dining, the Dip.

Distraction like this keeps me awake, so the first option isn’t great. I’m days away from sufficient groceries to properly consider the second, although the possibility of a plate of fries and maybe some reheated leftovers are tempting…

The last option is one I’ve gone to before, and it’s a decent one. The Dip (properly, “The Diplomat Restaurant”, but everyone calls it The Dip) is a great place to get the late-night cravings beaten down. You go there, you get some soup or a combo and you’re suddenly full. Usually, you can’t finish a combo, so you have food for the next day. Simple, but not entirely cheap. Certainly not as cheap as cooking it myself, and not as cheap as simply having given in two hours ago to my initial burger cravings.

On top of all this, a strong part of me is trying to maintain a reasonably healthy diet. Since I have to watch my salt intake and keep it at moderate levels for a healthy heart, I tend to fret over food. In truth, my diet is so low in salt that I probably erred on the side of caution extensively. This rationale is why I let myself indulge from time to time without really feeling worry, but it becomes a slippery slope, all-too-easy to use this excuse on a regular basis to justify a string of bad meals, after which I feel both guilty and unhealthy.

I suspect that these are common problems. I suspect everyone goes through this cycle of food urge and giving in to temptation. For most, however, they seem to get on with their life.

But I’m still hungry. Even after 700 words..

And I can tell you all the rational arguments you might be tempted to give me. This is truly nothing more than a first-world problem: to need to eat to feel satisfied, rather than simply eating to survive. I get that.

But this isn’t rational. It’s not as though there really is a seat of wisdom and knowledge lodged in my abdomen. No, rather there just seems to be a bundle of desires and needs, wanting but not thinking, unsatisfied by chewing on answers and logic.

The only thing that pleases me is the exposure of the raw nerves of my considerations. I am trying to balance time and money and satisfaction and distraction and treats. I have several warring factions, each with their own priorities, and they each have strategies to win the war of Attention and Action. They lob thoughts like shells, sometimes being shot down by intercepting priority conflicts or being absorbed in the well of Long Term Plans. Sometimes, it’s just Mutually Assured Destruction, or they suddenly try out what it’s like to be on the opposing team, suddenly a force pushing instead of pulling.

Strangely, it starts to sound similar to my PhD thesis work..

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