In November last year, I radically changed a significant part of my life. I stopped having lunch as a daily routine. No, I am not watching my weight. I have no need to watch my weight, because there is nothing to watch. I have never been overweight, and I do not think that is a problem I will have to deal with any time soon.
As a kid, I lived a rather sedentary lifestyle. I spent all of my free time in the library reading novels and encyclopaedias, and all of my holidays in my room doing something roughly similar. Despite this, I left high school with all of 45 kg under my skin. The only part of my body with some heft was my head. My high school photos are a study in balance for top-heavy objects. You know what I mean if you have ever tried to stand a lollipop on its stick. Not that I know why you would ever do such a thing.
Since then, I have come quite close to hitting 70 kg a few times, but I have never quite gotten there. There was even a two-year stretch when I actively gunned for it, by intentionally eating like a thousand pregnant locusts every day. I have a voracious appetite, so this wasn’t hard at all. But the closest to 70 I ever got was 69. Now I am 67.3, sans phone and keys. I jog every two weeks (eight kilometres a pop and headed to ten), and I do light calisthenics every morning. No, weight isn’t an issue for me right now.
Lunch just took too much time.
You see, where I work, you cannot have your lunch alone even if you wanted to. First of all, there are too many people at the cafeteria during lunch hour. It is impossible to keep a table to yourself without feeling like (and in fact being) a jerk, since the smallest tables have four chairs around them. But even if you are the biggest jerk outside the cat community, the bloody place is wide open and has glass walls. Anyone who knows you and wishes to join in can spot you from their bedroom.
I have nothing against eating with people. In fact, the human part of my mind tells me it is a good thing to do. Because when you eat with others, you stop eating. Instead, you start dining. The occasion stops being centred on the food. It shifts to the people with whom you share the table. This is by necessity, since there is nothing as off-putting as a bunch of men gorging themselves in silence for any period beyond a minute. It’s just plain gross.
The only problem is that, when you do this, your lunch cannot last ten minutes. If your friends aren’t very exciting to be with, it will take thirty minutes. If they have stories about the relative they visited over the weekend, it will be close to an hour. And if they want to pick your brain over some nebulous matter, good luck finishing lunch before dinner. Blast the employer who has already approved your next salary.
Initially, I tried to handle this predicament by going for lunch slightly earlier than most folks. I would sneak out of the office at midday and rush out to the cafeteria. On good days, I managed to bugger off the table in little more than ten minutes. But I still felt quite weird sitting alone, terrified that everyone had their eyes on me and that eating so fast was rude (introverts understand this feeling best). In addition, I was often joined by colleagues or friends who happened to be just there at that time (no hard feelings).
Eventually, I decided to just un-board the lunch flight, and left myself with breakfast and dinner. To compensate for the lost meal, I started making my breakfast extra heavy, amassing everything I could pile onto my tray. To date, I am still the only one who takes both tea and porridge at the buffet, and it scandalises the waiters (bless their generous souls) every. single. time. The cashiers often have to ask what that item behind my French toast is.
The first few days were horrible. I would get back to my little aerial hacienda with pangs of hunger licking away at my will to live. These weren’t those pangs with which we all adorned our English compositions in primary school. My stomach would be in pain, and I would gobble down slices of bread to calm it down. Over time, tea became sufficient for the task, before water took over. Now I enter the crib like a boss, and have no complaints until dinner time. I still wolf down slices of bread sometimes, but now I do it for fun.
It has turned out to be quite the experience. It has given me insights into my body that I had never even thought about. I mean, who even invented lunch? How was it settled that we should have three meals a day? I know we borrowed ten- and four o’clock tea from Tolkien’s hobbits, but we sure did it long after my ancestors were dead, save for grandpa and dad. There is no word in my native language for lunch.
Cutting out lunch has given me a lot of independence over my afternoons. It has taught me that, for me at least, lunch is not a condition for productivity. When everyone else’s stomach is telling them, “Joe, you gotta sleep bro. I need some oxygen over here, and I won’t share it with the brain,” mine tells me “Yo, Mathew, are you gonna do something with all this oxygen I ain’t using? I’m bored over here.” I really get into my zone in the afternoon, when I can concentrate for hours.
If you have read articles about nutrition before, then you know this is where I start saying everyone should be like me and stop having lunch. But I won’t do that. I am not trying to be dogmatic about this. I think most of what we read online about nutrition is generic to the point of being useless. I do not say this to trivialise the job of professional nutritionists, but I think human bodies are just too diverse and adaptable to be straightjacketed into narrow nutrition regimes.
The other reason I am not trying to be dogmatic is that you will still find me having lunch every now and then. In fact, the main reason this post has come earlier in the week than usual is that I am going away to a place where I will be eating sumptuous meals something like twenty times a day. I wouldn’t, for the life of me, attempt to lead a popular rebellion against lunch. As a rule though, I now only have lunch out of social necessity, like when someone I need to meet only has time over lunch, or when I participate in activities that include a common lunch.
On most days though, I go without lunch. And sometimes I forget to have dinner. Who would have thought!
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