Never lived in a small town

Went on long weekend trip with NG over Memorial Day, visited a friend in a strange and beautiful place, 30o miles North.  It’s a tiny place, surrounded by state and national parks on 3 sides, ocean on the other.  There’s not many jobs, logging mill has shut down, most of the hotels have shut down, the ones that are left have a few tourists, but cater mostly to locals.  The Mexican restaurant is shutting down, the bar is rarely open, the grocery store is open until 5 pm.  The diner attached to the hotel is so bad I can’t eat there no matter how hungry I am.  Not even bacon and eggs, which are hard to screw up.   There seems to be more elk than people.  I saw a momma black bear, two cubs, which was a real treat.

It seems that in a lot of small towns, there’s not much to do but sit around and drink (or almost as popular, though not tolerated by my host, crank).    Our host sat around and drank beer all day, we went hiking a whole bunch.  We’d go out in the morning around 8 or 9, come back around 5.   After a beer or two (my limit, sadly), we’d have to go walk the 2 miles down the levee.  I tolerate drunks less and less as I get older, preferring instead herds of elk, sea lions, or teenagers driving ATVs.  Besides my drinking friend, another guest is a “big boy”, his answer as to why he wears ear plugs to sleep.   Ignorant me, I didn’t know that this means a diabetic who snores loudly.   An uncontrolled (or did he say out of contol) diabetic, who often has to get up at 5 am because his blood sugar is wonky, to drink a beer, go to bed.  WTF kinda crazy shit is that?  He must be seeing things because he’s drunk?  Except 5 am is time to wake up, bedtime is 9 pm, with the sun, no drunk at that hour.  I feel as if I’m in the Twlight Zone, and I sleep in a tent in the yard.

If they want fresh veggies, meat, they grow/raise it or trade for it themselves.  Most folks are too poor to drive 30 miles to the big town (hah) for quality stuff.    The only cooking facilities in the house are two propane burners.  The whole kitchen gives me the creeps, we mostly eat out, other than the fruits and veggies and the portable food I prepped ahead of time.  We’re both semi-famished, even with a restaurant meal or two daily.  I am surprised for some reason that 8 hours or walking or hiking burns so many more calories than an hour or two at the gym.    Maybe I burn 500-1000 at gym, hiking 6+ hours (all steep but the levee), burns over 2500 (both approximated, though not wildly) .   When we left, I ate a burger, fries, salad, and ice cream.  Kind of a meal that makes me cringe (or even binge, once upon a time), but I was HUNGRY.    My weight dropped 5 pounds from the top to the bottom of my range before I even left, and there it stays.  I may actually have a loss once pms is over and gone.

So this worked well for me, though I don’t like being so, uh, food insecure?   Food inconvenient probably a better term.  I think that I wasn’t losing (and possibly gained – even though the scale bounces a lot, it stayed 5 pounds up for a month), because I was eating when not hungry.  I realize that just because it’s the norm to eat 3 meals a day, with maybe a snack or two, and some even like 5 or 6, I don’t have to constrain myself to any schedule.  Sometimes it’s more convenient to eat big meals, or I overeat at a party (or just eat differently), I may not get hungry again for a long time.  I’ve decided that it’s perfectly acceptable to skip meals, even breakfast.  I know that goes against conventional wisdom, but it seems nuttier to force myself to eat when I’m stuffed.  And all of a sudden, it all gets less complex.  This doesn’t mean that I’m going to eat erratically, or ignore nutrition or anything weird.  If left to my own devices, I’ll eat four small meals a day, with snacks.   Mostly plant based, not too processed.  The line between snack/meal is arbitrary, usually based on how hungry I am.  Sometimes a salad is a meal, sometimes a bowl of cereal is a snack, vice versa.   Sometimes I eat dinner at 8 pm or later, usually I just eat a snack, wake up hungry.  I’m hungry a lot more than I’m used to, which is okay when there is food, not so fun when I am semi-camping with no way to cook, nowhere to eat.  I eat healthy enough, and I am happy to be just a little less neurotic about food than before.

This is comfortable, and makes sense to me.  It’s not really Eat Stop Eat, or anything formal, it’s just me following my hunger.  I understand that it might be controversial for some reason or other, but the current research, what there is of it, doesn’t really show ill effects.  With all the obsession with paleo eating, this should really be trendy these days.  I doubt our early ancestors ate three square meals a day, they probably ate sporadically, whenever they could.   Anyway, nothing is really changing, I’m just no longer going to force myself to eat if I don’t wanna.   Thanks to Dr. J for making me think about this today.  He’s not quite talking about the same thing, but this math works for me.

met on levee, little goat thinks my jacket is tasty!

met on levee, little goat thinks my jacket is tasty!

wild coast


7 Responses to “Never lived in a small town”

  1. June 4, 2010 at 4:27 am

    Sounds like an interesting “vacation”. I hear you loud and clear about eating when hungry and not eating when not hungry. I really need to stop and learn to “hear” my hunger better. Sometimes I feel hungry all day… and I know intellectually that that hunger is more in my head than in my stomach, but I still listen to it. Your photos were nice. Thanks for sharing.

  2. June 4, 2010 at 5:48 am

    Wow – that does sound like a small town. What do people do for a living?

    I find that I eat when I an hungry when I am out and about on the weekends. But during the week when I am at work and tied to a chair, it seems that I eat when it is “time to eat.” It’s 9am, time to eat my snack. It’s 11:30am, time to eat my lunch. It’s 3pm, time to eat a snack. It’s crazy, but I don’t eat that way when I am at home on the weekend. Sometimes I wonder if the snacking is juat a way to distract myself at work.

  3. June 4, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Thank you Julie, I enjoyed reading this. No one has ever accused me of giving conventional wisdom, and I have to admit, I like that. When I was a kid I looked around at adults and felt if that was what convention led to I wanted to try something else 🙂

    It’s a shame really, that small towns are disappearing. Going to the larger urban cities is all too common. There’s a real beauty to a small town (I was born in a small town, along with Mellencamp 🙂

    I visited my small town a few years ago. I told some of the local high schoolers that I loved being back there and they said, “We can’t wait to leave!” I don’t blame them but maybe one day, like I did, after I was educated and hardened in fire of the big town, I returned to a smaller town and found home again. I wish that for you, if not in the size of the town, in the feeling…

  4. June 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    I like small towns, but only if I have a way out. 🙂

    Thanks for the lovely photos and sharing the story of the small, sad town.

  5. June 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    The whole eating when you are hungry sure seems like the answer many of us have been looking for. Why is it so hard for us to do this?

  6. June 7, 2010 at 5:41 am

    Bobbie – Thanks. Hunger is tricky, I don’t trust it 100%. PMS, bad moods, stress all throw this off, in which case I ignore hunger, and eat what seems reasonable to my mind. This is common, and I am mindful of it. I think it’s more the automatic eating (it’s time to eat, thus I eat) that I am stopping.

    Asithi – It’s cheap enough housing to live on SSI, VA benefits, welfare. There’s a prison 30 miles North, a university 30 miles South, along with grocery and retail and minor tourism trade that goes with it. My host works security at concerts for beer money, gets SSI. Wood carvings, ranch and pot country. Used to be logging, but the old growth is mostly cut, and now semi-protected. When I go back to work in 2 weeks, I will have a lot more structure in my life, but I still think this should work. I’ll let you know.

    Dr J – This town definitely has its charm, is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen. Everyone knows everyone’s business, but nobody bothers to lock the house. NG wants to move there, take over one of the businesses. Not for me, but I wish him well. It’s good that you’re not dispensing conventional advice, since most of that doesn’t seem to work so well, for numerous reasons, mostly psychological (in my opinion).

    Cammy – People actually seem happy there, despite the drug/alcohol problems. Big cities, suburbia, etc., are not immune to these things, but when there’s nothing else going on, they become glaringly obvious. I don’t think most live like my host, drinking all day, but it’s hard to say. Fortunately, NG is even more hyper than me, so we stayed busy, out of the house, mostly out of town. At least this time, the only bar in town was flying the American Flag, not the Confederate one, like it was last time I was up there. I’m afraid to even walk past that bar.

    Steve – Because we eat for so many psychological and social reasons, I think, is the short answer. We have too much access to fattening food that can be hard to resist, and we’re designing exercise, movement, even mild effort, out of our lives.

  7. 7 CCR
    June 9, 2010 at 2:07 am

    Heya Julie. Thanks very much for your comment.

    I can understand never having heard of Eating Distress. It’s basically a catch-all name for the condition whereby you suffer from any kind of Eating Disorder. The reason that the term Eating Distress is being used is because it more aptly covers what it’s like! And when people hear “eating disorder” they usually think anorexia or bulimia. But there are many more eating disorders than that…binge eating, compulsive overeating, exercise bulimia, cycled dieting and binging (the lose/gain cycle so many of us are trapped in) – this is all “Eating Distress” – but ultimately none of it is really about food. It’s a failure to love and accept ourselves as we are, in order to be strong enough to make permanent changes. And those changes might not end up being the ones we’d expect!

    Re: your post – I too am learning hunger signals from my body. However something important for me has been learning to start become friends with my body, because that is the only way I am ever going to listen to it. Eventually I hope that the genuine hunger signals from my body will be as clear as “I’m cold – get me a sweater” or “I’m tired – let me rest”. These signals come naturally to me but the hunger ones are mixed up. Sometimes I think I am hungry but really I am just tired, angry, lonely, sad or bored. I look forward to a future of clear hunger signals!

    Good luck on your journey!

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