Monday, July 9, 2018

One Meal a Day

I was priding myself on eating only one meal per day because it made life simple. It was frugal. It was nutritious, I made sure: vegetables and protein, some grains, fat, and fruit. Most importantly, it saved time and effort. I wasn't dieting; I needed that time in order to work more. Fewer dishes, less waste and less time spent cleaning up: One meal a day seemed ideal.

Then I realized a half-hour walk or a 40-minute yoga video or a 50-minute "senior" class at the rec center, or any exercise whatever, depleted me so I had to lie down soon after coming home, ears ringing and so exhausted I felt poisoned. Even thinking was an effort. At times two days passed before I summoned enough energy to do my job, or gussy up and go places. I sat instead of standing whenever I could. Craftily, I enrolled in an evening exercise class so I could go to bed soon afterward. I let myself sleep an hour longer. This helped a little.

The meal was at midday or a bit later. Clever me, making soup that'd last three days, and no-cook sandwiches or salad, and maybe yogurt and berries or chia-seed pudding. More than enough for someone who sits and writes all day. And coffee. A banana for a snack, or the white of a boiled egg, or 1.5 oz. of tuna on a Ry-Krisp (dangerously close to a meal). Pasta on Fridays only. Meanwhile I'm gulping vitamins and Tylenol, looking puzzled at perfect blood-test results, reading up on rare diseases (chronic fatigue? thyroid? cardiac? worse?), feeling weak, and reading message boards. What could be wrong with me?

Why could people much older than myself exercise daily while two sessions a week left me, like, paralyzed? Was this my metabolism? Genetics? Father Time telling me to "let myself go"?

As it turns out, you can't live and work and exercise without sufficient fuel. Exercise uses and then depletes glycogen (energy) stores. I had almost none stored because of chronic under-eating. When athletes deplete their glycogen they call it "hitting the wall," and it's like pulling the plug from an electrical appliance, you are that fatigued that suddenly. I was used to saying "I'm not that hungry" (true), "I hate dishes," and "I don't want to take the time." Needless to say I was not my cheery self, either. Yes, under-eating is a thing. Without glycogen your body eats your muscle tissue, and curves go flat, and whatever held you up fails to do so.