Peanuts or pretzels?

Pretzels? As I’ve been writing this column, I notice that while I am more apt to try new recipes and write about them, or think about food and cooking, I’m also realizing how often I don’t bother cooking at all. This week, I had one of my favorite easy recipes: I mash up a ripe avocado with a little salt and garlic powder and eat it with baked tortilla chips. That was dinner twice this week.

Part of the reason why I occasionally (all right, maybe not so occasionally) eat like this is that I have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and by the time I come home I’m so ravenous that my brain is going FOOD NOW OR EVERYONE WILL DIE and my hands are trying to cook something fast enough to satisfy before going berserk on a bag of chips, or something. Hypoglycemia makes me into a bit of a baby when it comes to food. I need to eat every few hours or I will get cranky (and then get a migraine and vomit, but the crankiness is so unpleasant to everyone around me that it serves as a pretty effective warning sign). On car trips, I’m always the one to need a burger first. I am incapable of skipping meals without becoming a monster.

While my mom was visiting, she and I were shopping for a dress for my friend’s upcoming wedding. We were in Macy’s, wandering on the second floor, trying to find them. A sign had pointed us up the escalator, but we were going in circles and my mom kept stopping at anything purple and saying “Oooh, look at this!” or “Here’s a dress, right here!” I marched ahead of her like a sullen teenager and said helpful things like “But there is a whole section of dresses, I know it” and “I don’t get it. The sign said it was up here!” and “Hrrrrgh.”

After about ten minutes of this, my mom said gently, “Why don’t we leave and get something to eat and come back?” Moms always know. For some reason, the hypoglycemia sees this as a challenge and says things like “NO. We came here to find a dress and I don’t have to walk all the way down the block just to come right back here.” But pretty soon I find myself saying, “Yeah, I’m gonna need some food. Right now.”

Here are some tips that I have learned (and still sometimes forget and/or ignore) to avoid the hypoglycemic crash. If you feel shaky or get migraines after a few hours of not eating, you might also be hypoglycemic. There are many different gradations of it, and I won’t pretend to be a doctor and diagnose you. But I think these tips can also help anyone who wants to not be ravenous at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

  1. Drink water. While I’m not in any way advocating that this should take the place of eating, drinking water helps me feel a little more full. I’ll be feeling terrible and then when I fill up my water bottle and take a swig, I remember why.
  2. Eat protein. Anytime I tell someone I have low-blood sugar, they will tell me to eat a candy bar, or something. That always seems like a good idea, because it’s exactly what your body wants. If you do eat sugar or carbohydrates, you’ll feel better. For a little while. But then you crash and feel worse than before. Example: Yesterday, before I got to my avocado, I opened the box of chocolates my dad sent me for Sweetest Day (for people who haven’t heard of this, it’s some sort of made-up holiday meant to supplement Valentine’s Day. I think. I don’t really get it either). I had one chocolate. And then I had eaten six and gotten sidetracked on Facebook, and pretty soon my hands were shaking and I was working on a pretty good migraine.

    I keep nuts and dairy like yogurt and cheese sticks stocked at all times, including at work. If I start to feel the crazy coming on, a handful of walnuts helps me ward it off until dinner. Or until I get crazy again.

    • (Optional, imaginary rule between 2 and 3): Don’t stock sugar. This goes along with having protein on hand. If you don’t have the chocolates or cookies in the first place, you won’t have them to eat. Then when people around you complain about their snacking habits, you can say high-and-mighty things like “Oh, I make sure not to even keep that in the house.” People really like hearing that.
  3. Eat later. Because I go to the gym after work and there’s no way I make enough bank to afford take out (even fast food) every night, I have to wait until at least 7 p.m. to eat dinner. In order to be able to do this, I cheat a little. I disobey step number two.

    I bring coffee to work, and the sugar in the coffee lets me wait until about 10 to eat breakfast, and until 1 to eat lunch. I officially give you permission to make up rules. And then break them.

Peanuts. Do you have any tips to avoid trying to break into the vending machine in desperation?

In the coming weeks, I’ll be trying out new crock pot recipes and attempting to cook a squash. For now, I’m writing this on a plane and the stewardess is almost at my row. I’ll take peanuts, not pretzels.

2 Responses to “Peanuts or pretzels?”
  1. Nicole says:

    Jill, I am exactly the same way….when I get grouchy, the first question Dan asks me is, “when was the last time you ate?” and then hands me a granola bar or a packet of trail mix. I *always* have either granola or trail mix (with LOTS of almonds in it) on hand, and I have to eat pretty much every 3 hours

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