Eating More Or Less During The Pandemic

David Todd McCarty

Traditional meal schedules have been thrown out the window along with everything else normal during quarantine

Photo by David Todd McCarty on Unsplash

I had never been much of a breakfast guy, at least not during the week. I had a long commute, about 90 minutes one way, so most days I woke, showered, dressed, and left, picking up a coffee on the way to work. I’d been doing this for a quarter of a century up until COVID-19 shut everything down.

There was a period of years, over a decade at least, when I would work straight through lunch, leaving my desk only to smoke, get more coffee, or stretch my legs, and then I would drive home and eat a big meal. This was my main meal, if not my only meal, of the day. I golfed and surfed in the summer, cut wood, and hiked in the winter. I managed to maintain a reasonable weight, if not exactly skinny.

When I quit smoking, I began eating lunch daily, mostly bringing it with me from home. It was never too much. A small sandwich, a piece of fruit, and maybe a snack. More or less what you would expect your mom to pack you for school in the 1970s. I was using my lunch hour to go to the gym, which was great until I injured myself.

Eventually, the gym a few days a week turned into going out to lunch. I was still drinking then, so along with lunch went a few glasses of wine. When I was eating a big lunch every day, I often wasn’t all that hungry for a large meal so would either skip it altogether or just eat a light snack in the evening. You could more or less say I was still eating just one big meal a day.

Since the pandemic began, almost a year ago today, I have been working from home, five days a week. I am never far from the fridge or the pantry, although I get just as lost in my work as before, and often don’t leave my desk other than to refill my coffee or soda and to use the bathroom. I love my home office, so this suits me just fine.

On the weekends we might go out to lunch or dinner, but not usually breakfast because my wife has never been much of a breakfast person and once the kids were grown, we ceased to make it at the house. I stopped thinking about it as a meal.

My wife often makes me lunch, which comes at whatever time works into her schedule. Sometimes I get lunch at 11am. On other days, she brings me something at 1pm. Often she’s out doing other things and I don’t get lunch at all. As she points out, if she doesn’t make me something, I don’t tend to eat.

The randomness of it all has precluded me from having any expectations, good or bad. If my wife walks into my office with a plate, I’m always just pleasantly surprised. If she doesn’t come, I don’t even think about it. I appreciate it, but I don’t go looking for it if it doesn’t come.

I quit drinking alcohol at the start of my quarantine, mostly for health reasons, but in hindsight, it was a divine blessing to be sure because without having a reason to ever get into a car, I’m certain to have remained drunk for the better part of twelve months.

Given that I haven’t had a cigarette in almost a decade, and now had stopped drinking, it would have been easy for me to turn to food as a solution to boredom, and to some degree I did.

Like nearly everyone else on the planet, I started a sourdough mother and began baking bread, along with a slew of other gastronomical medleys that I would have otherwise never had the time for. I became the kitchen witch, chipping in at least a few days a week, to cook dinner or bake something.

I never used to be a dessert person, but since being quarantined, and with no alcohol, we’ve been regularly making some form of sweets, one after another. Banana bread, blueberry muffins, cheesecake, pies of all sorts, cookies, homemade ice cream, and bread. I’m still working on perfecting the bread, but I feel like we have the other things down pat.

I think about dinner almost the minute I wake up, mainly because I know I will need to think about what if anything I need to take out of the freezer, or if there is any prep that needs doing so that when dinner comes around, I’m prepared.

My wife has always been the main cook in the house, and she still is, but I’ve jumped in with all sorts of projects. I make pizza from scratch at least once a week or two. Ice cream is being churned once a month, give or take. I’ve made several styles of pasta, all of which I’ve determined is a huge waste of time given what you can buy it for.

In the end, I find that I have been eating more types of food, and probably even more foods with higher fat, salt, or sugar, but eating healthier nevertheless. I am often still just eating the one big meal a day, but more often I am eating two smaller meals. The time home has forced me to get outside more than I used to, especially if you don’t consider driving in a car for 90 minutes, time outside. I walk and ride my bike, and last summer, I began mowing my own lawn again after handing it over to landscapers for the last 15 years or so.

I lost weight immediately from not drinking, but the ice cream and the bread have helped to maintain a hefty balance. I’m definitely healthier than I was before, but I am not significantly lighter in weight, which is entirely my own fault. It’s pure sugar and nothing else. If I cut out sugar tomorrow, I’d probably shed weight like you read about.

After having quit smoking, and now drinking, and with little else to do around the house than eat, I have determined that life might not be worth living if I were skinny and yet still stuck at home. Who exactly would I be maintaining my girlish figure for? My wife doesn’t seem overly distraught about my pant size to begin with.

She would rather I was active than skinny as this coincides with her belief that anyone moving is accomplishing something. Most of what I do, which involves sitting in front of a computer, is all well and good in her mind, but it’s not real work.

I’m thinking that this summer might be a breakthrough for me. Having gotten out of some bad habits, it might be time to create some new, more positive habits. There is nothing wrong with any food in my mind, whether it be butter, salt, or sugar, but you do need some moderation as well as a reasonable amount of cardiovascular activity. It’s everything they ever told us. There is no secret. Don’t be a pig. Talk a walk. Enjoy yourself.

The same is true of smoking and drinking I guess, but I was never good with moderation there. Too habitual for me. If I’m smoking, why not smoke all the time? If I’m drinking, why not drink all the time? I have somehow skirted that flawed logic when it comes to food, but I have developed a theory concerning better food but less of it.

I miss cocktail hour. I miss having that first drink as a reward that the day is done. I still do it, but I don’t add alcohol, and it works to some degree. But what I really look forward to now is food, so I want it to count for something. I don’t want to eat just to survive. I want to eat with purpose, so the food had better be damn good.

I am in a routine I like and have no interest in changing. I have my coffee in the morning and on into the early afternoon. Sometimes I have a little bite to eat in the middle of the day, and often not. Then I have a nice meal to celebrate the end of the day. If I lived in Europe, I could probably seriously get into a big meal in the middle of the day, followed by a nap, and then a light meal. But I don’t live in Europe so I will continue on my way.

The thing I have learned is to eat less, but better. I consume fewer wasted calories than I used to, so I’m enjoying what I eat more, even though I’m eating less.

This seems like a balanced plan to me. A path of moderation with nuggets of excess to keep things interesting. This summer, I plan to add more exercise into the mix and see if I can’t also lose the weight. Then I will be ready to sit at home and do nothing while wearing a different size pair of pants. Presumably, this will be an improvement, but I’m not entirely convinced.

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Writer, Director, Photographer, Designer, and Journalist. I am endlessly curious about politics, street food, photography, and garden gnomes.

Cape May Court House, NJ

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