If there has been one constant in my life, it has surely been my appetite. Each day I’d wake to the insistent rumblings in my stomach and my daily battle would begin. Would my appetite for yummy, fatty or sweet indulgences win, or would I quell my hunger with something more wholesome and healthy? On most days that tug-of-war was the undercurrent of my life and set the stage for the ongoing struggle between my better judgment and my love of preparing and eating what my appetite demanded.
I love food. I love cooking it, sharing it, and will travel pretty far for some legendary fried chicken. The evidence of my appetite amply covers my skeleton and fills my pantry. I don’t always make the best food choices, though I try to include fresh fruit and veggies, stay away from processed and fast food but, as my people say, I am a fresser. I love to eat good food, too often, and often, too much. Despite my efforts, I struggle with moderation. I have spent years allowing my appetite to occupy the driver’s seat and forcing me into ever larger jeans.
A few weeks ago I had major surgery, and have since noticed a number of changes in my body. I have spent a lifetime feeling too hot, yet in the past few weeks, I am often cold. I have always been a morning person, finding my energy would ebb as the day wore on, but lately I have a burst of renewed energy in the early evening. And most noticeable is the change in my appetite. I’m not hungry the way I always was, and that insistence, that nagging for something particular is strangely absent.
In the days immediately following the surgery I didn’t want food at all. I was happy on liquids. For the first time in my life people, doctors even were urging me to eat something, just a little something they’d implore. I understand they wanted me to eat to get my digestive system moving again. My sister prodded me to eat some protein, to feel warmer she said. Over the days following the procedure I did, of course, start eating, and things got going as all those carefully watching me wanted to see, and so I was sent home to heal and eat.
It’s been about two weeks, and I am surprised at my own recovery. Except for the zipper that runs down my belly and the related discomfort, I feel fine. My energy is returning and I can do pretty much everything I need to do to care for myself and my household. Each day I find I can do more than I thought I could. Today I knelt down and cleaned the cat box, a chore I was happy to delegate to others, but it seems I can manage, dammit.
For the first time in my life, I don’t crave anything. I’m not longing for this or that and when someone asks me what I want, I answer honestly ‘I don’t really care.’ When I got home from the hospital I asked my friend Corrine to bring me some smooth ice cream. She brought me vanilla and cappuccino gelato, YUM you may say, as did I. That was almost two weeks ago and the two containers are still in my freezer. Last night I made myself a small bowl of the two flavors mixed together, let them get to the perfect consistency had a few spoonfuls, and pushed the bowl away.
Is my appetite slumbering or gone forever? The food I’ve been eating tastes fine. I enjoy it, but not the way I used to. I have a bit (maybe even what a normal person would call a serving) and I’m done. The other day I had a late lunch, not a huge lunch, then later I skipped dinner. I skipped dinner! One day for lunch I had a cup of coffee and three chocolate chip cookies. The cookies were excellent, but that was all I wanted. (See I am still able to make poor choices). I haven’t been able to decide if I am relieved or worried about this new state of mine.
I have been losing weight (a good thing), but what else have I lost? Have I lost something that makes me me? Did my appetite define me, or can I reclaim my passion for food with a diminished appetite? Is this permanent or temporary? And don’t I get to determine the hold my own appetite has on me? I’d like to be the master of my appetite rather than its servant and I want to feel excited about food again. As much as I miss the urgency of my cravings I am soothed by my less insistent hunger. Do you think it’s possible while they were removing things they took my appetite too?