Eating and Adulting

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.

8 thoughts on “Eating and Adulting

  1. I am thoroughly in your camp regarding food. This “forgetting to eat?” It usually means I got too busy. But forgetting? Not likely. What’s wrong with planning breakfast while you’re eating dinner? Makes perfect sense to me. Exercise too (to my surprise. I believe I am the laziest woman in the notable history of lazy women, and yet).

    I’m working on sleep, now. For years the definition of my place in the world was “I am the last one to turn out the lights.” I would read until 2, get up (reluctantly) at 7, and go off to school or work. In college I arranged not to have classes before 11 (with the notable exception of a Classic Drama in translation class at 8:30, for which I wore my contacts in the hope that they would make me keep my eyes open), but I was always up until 2. See “self-definition.”

    In literally the last year I’ve begun to work on getting 7 hours of sleep. I’m still working, so I’m still up at 7am most days (and I still resent it. Not A Morning Person.) But I’m going to bed earlier, in the hope that both the amount and quality of sleep will improve. I cannot believe it’s me, overthrowing a lifetime of shorting myself on sleep. And I’m still not convinced I will win this particular contest.

  2. Sleep was by far the toughest for me. I used to stay up watching late-night TV until 2 and get up at 6 to make it to the dojo for 7 am class. (I am not a morning person either, but I really loved that class.) I resented the idea that we needed to sleep (while also hating it that day jobs did not provide a place for naps) for most of my life. Now I’ve finally accepted it. It helps that I have a partner who wants to go to bed early (he really is a morning person — can’t go back to sleep once he wakes up even if he hasn’t had enough sleep). He’s also quiet in the morning, because I can and do go back to sleep.

    I still hate exercise, but dear god I loved Aikido and I love walking. I refuse to do anything physical I don’t enjoy, but I’ve still got to move.

    1. When we moved to San Francisco the younger kid’s school began at 7:50, and not all the Not Gonna in the world would change that. (In NYC school began at a more rational 9am.) So I got used to it–as we say in my household, “I am not a morning person, but I play one on TV.”

      I loathed games–particularly things like softball–until I was begged to join the company team (they needed women in order to compete in the league) and my colleagues actually taught me the rules–apparently I was supposed to intuit them in gym class. Made a huge difference. But I didn’t learn to like exercise until I took up stage combat–it had a narrative as well as the activity, and that made sense to me. I miss it, but like you, I love to walk. Particularly in cities (it isn’t that I don’t like Nature–but walking in a city revives me in a way that hiking doesn’t, and yes, I know I’m weird that way).

      1. I spent 22 years getting up for that 7 am class without ever becoming a morning person. However, somewhere along the way I also lost my ability to stay up until the wee hours to finish things. So now I’m not a morning person and I am almost always in bed by 11 at the latest. Go figure.

        I liked games. I was just convinced I was untalented and uncoordinated and therefore couldn’t learn to play them. But I hated exercise. Even today I cannot abide group exercise classes; they remind me way too much of high school PE. Martial arts spoke to me in a way that nothing else ever did. I tried yoga about ten years back and realized that it didn’t do the same thing at all. I like meditative forms of yoga and the breathing practices, but hatha yoga classes do nothing for me. Qigong, which I consider quite similar to yoga work, is much more like martial arts and therefore works. I am not sure what this means, except that it might have something to do with an implicit narrative in the fighting arts. Or also about the fact that knowing I could take care of myself in a tight situation changed how I saw the world.

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