Coded green.

Saturday 30 September 2000

Me & empty platter

Pic of the day: OK, maybe it wasn't quite that bad ...

He shall not eat

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."
(Paul, early Christian apostle, writing to the Thessalonians.)

Now, that's pretty strict. But there is definitely a connection here. Back when Paul the apostle walked the Earth, food was a scarce resource. As still it is in some less affluent countries, and may become once again in the future, for all we know. But in Norway (and generally Europe and North America) the problem now is too much food and too little physical work. We still eat as if we were tilling the soil from dawn till dusk, but mostly we just sit around thinking.


After an yoghurt breakfast, I walked along to the grocery for my Saturdaily food shopping. Since I was out of safe-to-eat bread (let's say if bread had an expiration date, it was well past it) I bought some. I also bought some "egg & bacon" sandwich salad. It is quite tasty. A box of chocolate cookies, a liter of tropical fruit juice, half a liter of milk, and of course lots and lots of yoghurt.

The bread is going to succumb to old age, and there's not a lot I can do about it. Well, perhaps cryopreservation. But the fridge will not be enough. I ate two slices of bread with salad, and was well fed until the evening. I only eat light food late in the day - a couple yoghurt, typically. Some of the cookies also went the way of all flesh. But that's pretty much it. And I could probably have eaten less with no ill effect.

There is still chocolate in the cupboard, and tortilla chips, and ice cream (though it is anybody's guess how long that one will remain edible). And there's delicious cheese just waiting for me to cook some pasta to keep it company. But I can't have both pasta and bread with sandwich salad on the same day.

I don't mean "I can't eat that much or I will be fat". I mean I can't eat that much without suffering acute intestinal pain, diarrhea and nausea. The body is enforcing St Paul's law on its own accord. Back when I grew up on the farm, a man could eat as much in one meal as I now do in a day. There is definitely a connection between work and food.


I have a pretty good idea how the body maintains this balance too, at least in my case. As I grow fatter, the fat accumulates around the kidneys and starts to crowd the intestines. Obviously, some people manage to ignore the pressure; it may be a question of training. Others store the fat elsewhere on their bodies, eliminating the pressure.

There are also chemical signals that tell the brain to relax its hunt for food. I guess these also work a bit differently in different people. Also, the brain is a very flexible organ. I was raised with a fairly relaxed attitude to food: There was no real punishment for being finicky or not eating up. I suppose people may react differently if they were raised with mounds of food being piled up on their plates and threats of spanking and eternal damnation unless they ate it all.

And last, but perhaps not least, I like sugar. The muscles can burn fat, but the brain can not. (The muscles too tend to use fat only when they see that you're serious about working. The first 20 minutes or so, they prefer sugar and starches.) The brain burns a surprisingly steady flame, even in normal tabloid-reading humans. It can easily pull a fifth or more of the entire energy consumption, despite a weight of only one and a half kilogram. So some sugar is required. (Or simple starches, which can be easily converted to sugar.) If the brain senses a lack of sugar, it will not be pleased, and you may feel hungry.

Eating candy between the meals will help you lose weight. It sounds like sheer insanity, but depending on your other habits it may just be true. If there is sugar in the blood as mealtime draws close, you should feel less hungry. Of course, this does not stop all people. Some manage to eat a huge meal even though they are not hungry at all. Force of habit, social conditioning and what not. But it works for me. I don't gain weight from sugar, and not from starch food such as bread and pasta. I do gain weight from dinner, though. When I can make myself eat one. Today I could not.

"For all the food we cannot eat, we thank thee, O Lord!"

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