Friday, August 13, 2004

The worm rages on!

Those of you that know me know I have a, to put it mildly, healthy appetite. Throughout high school and college I and some of my friends were nearly convinced I had a worm swelling my appetite to its infamous proportions. Why haven't I gotten tested for it? First, because my hair hasn’t fallen out and I've never seen or felt anything slithering near my belly or perineum. Second, if I knew I had a worm, I'd be liable; I'd have to name him; I'd have to alter my budget for him. Ignorance is bliss.

Since I've come to Taiwan, my mythic worm seems to have gained strength. I have been hungrier longer in this country than I can ever recall. It must be the serving sizes. After a year here, making my way into a second, I have finally comes to terms with the EATCCR, the Elliot-and-Taiwanese Caloric Conversion Rate: I can and should order two Taiwanese servings of almost all foods. Except after VERY large meals, I wake up and go to sleep and teach and read always itching for another bite.

I have done it to myself, I guess. I already have a naturally fast metabolism. Add to this that food here is cheap, so I have no compunction about buying more. Also my hectic schedule last year induced me to eat 4-6 meals every day (wherein a day consists of about 18-20 hours considering all the sleep I didn't have). Such macro-snacking, or, if you like, micro-eating, only accelerates your metabolism. Plus, in addition to riding my bicycle all over the city, I was on my feet, talking, writing, walking most of the day as I taught. Now that I teach at only one school and don't ride my bicycle as much, I expected to lose my nagging appetite. Alas, no. It's only surged in the last weeks. Again, this must be my fault, since I've begun working out again.

But, lately, I've decided not to fight my appetite (aside from religious fasting and basic civil restraint), but to go with it, to see where it leads me in my youth. When Allison was here I noticed something: I didn't really lose my build. I hardly worked out during the 2+ weeks of her visit, but I didn't really atrophy (muscularly) as I usually would within days. Why could this be? It dawned on me that though I didn't work out, I also most certainly didn't eat at a harried semi-subsistence level like I usually do. I usually grab a handful of calories for fuel on the go and make it top the next fuel station. But when Allison was here we ate and ate and ate. My body didn't atrophy because it didn't need to; I had a calorie cushion between my stomach and my muscles. Eureka!

Since then I've been making a concerted effort to eat lots. I don't hesitate to eat before I go to bed. Last night, for example, I was starving (in the shallow Western you-have-no-idea-what-STARVING-means sense), so I ate two peanut butter sandwiches just before sleeping. I also don't err on the side of too little for lunch or dinner. Today for example, I had two Taiwanese (mini) egg omelets, some long dumplings (guo-2 tieh-1), and a triangle sandwich. Within an hour I was hungry. So, before lunch I scarfed a bag of chips and then for lunch I had a juice green tea, a large bowl of seafood wet noodles, and some other item that escapes my memory (it's all just calories to these hungry eyes). Then, an hour or two later, I ate two Snickers bar in about 5 minutes. I got home and scarfed a bag of white rice, was still burning with hunger and ate another PB sandwich before heading to the gym. There I ignored my appetite while I worked out but it asserted itself immediately as I made my way out. So, I stopped at one of my favorite little eateries and ate one plate of pork fried rice, a plate of vegetables, a bowl of rice noodle soup, a plate of goose meat, half a milk tea, and one large beer. I was hungry by the time I got to my friends' house --- ten minutes later.

I'm hungry even as I type. I think I'll down a huge flagon of water before I sleep, just to dupe my stomach into a full torpor. I can sleep through my hunger. But tomorrow is another day. Another hungry day. My belly will be up before I am and it will have some stern words for me even as I try to pray my way into the day. Perhaps the ghost worm is just my digestive tract.

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