3/21/11

Grab a Book!

When I was in high-school or home on a college break, my mother would often catch me with my nose in the pantry or the fridge. When she did, she would say, "Stop that restless grazing! If you're bored, read a book!" I would dutifully close the door and go grab something from my mother's bookcase.

My brothers ate constantly because they played sports like football and wrestling, which required them to bulk up and maintain weight. I also played sports and burned off calories quickly, but I didn't need to eat like they did. I snacked because I saw them doing it, and my mother redirected this into more productive behavior. I am glad she did, as reading has never harmed anyone but overeating certainly has.

In the days after the earthquake, I found myself doing a lot of two things: sleeping and eating. The sleeping I saw as beneficial. I felt much calmer and clearer after a nap. The eating, not so much.

At first, the food was comforting. It was reassuring to know that I had access to food when so many people did not, and some foods, such as sweets, release dopamine. I also rationalized the eating as biologically driven: bulk up now to withstand impending scarcity. By the third or fourth day of one meal blending into the next (punctuated only by naps!), I recognized my behavior for what it was: restless grazing. I picked up a book and started to read.

Once I started reading, I felt a lot better, a lot calmer. The book took my mind off the news, the crisis, the emails and reports coming in from around Japan and the world, and the constant wondering what the best course of action was. Caught up in the story, the world of my book, I didn't have any desire to eat.

The hysteria is dying down now. The tension of the first few weeks has faded. I am not so wound up that I retreat into slumber, food, or books.

I learned a lot about myself from my reaction to the crisis. I sleep and I eat. Next time, I will sleep and read.


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