Avoiding certain foods reminds me of being pregnant. When I found out I was pregnant- both times- I commenced the time-honored tradition of beginning to mildly lose my mind. Immediately, on the advice of my small library of pregnancy books, I swore off alcohol and caffeine. Also jaywalking, swimming within twenty minutes of eating and watching any form of reality television. And both times it was the beginning that was memorably rough, trying to get used to the idea that something I regularly consumed and enjoyed was- whoops!- off the table. “Yes, I’d love a glass/cup of…of… I mean, uh, no. Thank you.”
And as any woman who has been pregnant can tell you, one experiences hunger as if it is a brand new sensation. After my fourteenth snack of the day I’d go to bed and have vivid dreams about food in which I’m pretty sure I salivated and chewed in my sleep.
I craved sweets, chocolate in particular, but every time I took a bite of anything chocolatey the most peculiar thing happened: it would turn to dust in my mouth. Literally, it tasted as appetizing as wallpaper paste. So other desserts became, of course, quintessentially important.
Thus, one of my most memorable pregnant moments occurred at my cousin Gretchen’s surprise fortieth birthday party for her husband Randy. I was feeling large and uncomfortable, and the 2 1/2 hour drive to get there seemed much longer. I recall floating my blimp-like self down to the ladies room for what was my ninth or tenth visit, when I was offered a beautiful slice of pastry- a Napoleon- by a passing waiter. Since I thought it perhaps in questionable taste to bring my dessert into the bathroom with me to pee, I demurred; I’d wait till I was back at my table.
Big mistake. Huge. By the time I returned to my table there were no beautiful, fluffy, shiny little slices of Napoleon left. All gone. The alternative? Chocolate cake.
I sat in watery-eyed silence and longingly, resentfully watched the guests at my table eat their desserts. How could they? I wondered with my pregnant-lady brain. I stopped just shy of sending my husband to announce from the balcony that there was a pregnant lady emergency and would some kind soul be willing to donate their Napoleon to a good cause?
I kid you not: I have never cared about a piece of food in my life as much as that untouchable Napoleon. So much of one’s pregnancy is spent feeling hungry for some unnamable something that when you actually find the thing that will satisfy that hunger- it is as if the clouds have parted and the heavenly choir is singing. Then to have it snatched away…? It was almost more than my hormone-addled brain could take. I was on the verge of tears in the car on the way home. I couldn’t stop thinking about how deprived I felt; how I should’ve taken dessert with me to the bathroom; how unfair it was for everyone to have dessert but me. At that moment it seemed as if the big hole in my middle that would remain hungry and incomplete… forever. All I can say is that those guests were lucky I wasn’t armed.
Of course looking back it all seems so ridiculous. Crying over a pastry? I have no idea what actual hunger really feels like- the kind that comes from genuine deprivation, and for that I am supremely grateful. It’s because I am lucky enough to have enough food on a daily basis that I can make the privileged decision to carry out an experiment such a sugar-less year in the first place.
Nonetheless it’s also worth noting the amazing power food and our brain can exert over us- when you live in a land of plenty it is certainly easy to forget.
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