Someone I follow tweeted that they forgot to eat today. I responded, “You know, I am quite sure that I have never forgotten to eat.”
I have at times skipped a meal because something came up and there wasn’t time to eat, but I guarantee I was cranky about it. I can remember coming home exhausted and falling into bed without dinner.
And of course I have been too sick to eat a few times in my life. It’s a guidepost: if I don’t want to eat, I am really sick.
But I have never forgotten about a meal.
My father used to say I was always hungry. He said the day they brought me home from the hospital, I cried and carried on while he tried desperately to figure out how to get a bottle ready.
And the family made fun of me for years after the vacation when I asked, while we were eating dinner, what we were going to do for breakfast the next day.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t getting enough dinner. I just wanted to make sure there were plans for breakfast the next day. I mean, my mother was in charge and I’d already figured out that she didn’t really care that much about food.
I’ve been teased enough about the importance I place on regular meals to feel a little defensive. But damn it, eating is important.
My inability to forget to eat is not the result of some horrible period where I didn’t have food. I’ve been broke, but never so broke that I didn’t have enough to eat. I’ve eaten a lot of beans and scrounged together odd meals to make sure I didn’t waste anything because money was tight, but I’ve always had enough to get by.
It probably goes without saying that I also like to eat. I like most types of food and I want what I eat to taste good. And while I’m not immune to the pleasures of junk food – if I’m at a party with tables full of chip and dips and candy, I will indulge a lot – I do not consider it a substitute for actual meals.
When I was a kid, my mother used to take my sister and me to the bookmobile to get enough books for the next two weeks. We’d stop by the store for a box of Almond Hershey bars, go home, and each sit in our preferred location with a book and candy.
A couple of hours later, though, I would want dinner. My mother would have been fine without it. (I take after my father, who also liked his meals. Even in his nineties, he could polish off a chicken-fried steak.)
These days I eat healthy most of the time. (I do have a weakness for ice cream.) For me – and I know this varies from person to person – healthy means lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans of all sorts, and sufficient protein from all sources.
Even though I always liked to eat, I wasn’t always as concerned about the quality of my food. These days that’s my major focus. One of the things that kept me going during the pandemic was making sure we got in plenty of healthy food, with farm boxes from local organic farmers being a major blessing.
I’ve developed a couple of other good habits over the years. In the last ten years, I finally discovered the importance of sleep.
As a kid, I used to stay up late reading. I fell into the habit of all-nighters to finish major homework projects in high school, culminating in staying up for two days straight to do a paper for law school. In my 40s at Clarion West, I averaged five hours of sleep a night for the entire six weeks.
And I can’t tell you how many nights I used to fall asleep on the couch, waking up only long enough to flip the channel on the TV.
I don’t do that anymore. I strive for a good eight hours and if I sleep badly – I can worry at three a.m. with the best of them – I go to bed early the next night.
The other thing is exercise. As a kid, I spent more time with books than moving. But after I took up martial arts at the age of 30, I finally understood how important it was for me to move.
These days I mostly walk. And if I’m short on steps, I will go around the block at nine p.m. to make sure I’ve got them all. I do it even if I’m tired.
I consider eating right, sleeping well, and exercise to be the ultimate in “adulting.” I put all three ahead of such things as money management, taxes, and cleaning house.
All those things were much harder to balance when I had a day job and even more complicated when I also was trying to keep an eye on my father during his last years. So I know it’s not an easy thing to do if you have a lot of responsibilities. Cooking real food, getting enough exercise, and getting enough sleep all take time, and time is something a lot of people have far too little of.
I’m grateful that I’m now in a position where I can tilt my schedule in favor of these three things.
It would be nice if someone would clean this damn house, though.