Rookie Commuter: Not Enough Food

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Food. Too much and you’re fat, not enough and you’re too weak to fend off a fat guy trying to eat you. Biking burns calories, and while it is awfully hip for many people to eat a calorie deficit, I don’t have any more weight to lose– unless I’m trying to sink my cheeks in to look more like a wolf. But that sounds kind of gross.

I used an online calculator, which estimates that I’m burning almost an extra one thousand calories a day while biking around. On my budget, that means I need to eat upwards of eight more sweet potatoes a day, and I was already eating lots of sweet potatoes. I’m not complaining, I like sweet potatoes. My skin, however, does seem to be taking on an orange hue.

I told myself I'd take a picture of my breakfast. But then I ate it. This is where my breakfast was. It was oatmeal, and now it's in my belly.

I told myself I’d take a picture of my breakfast. But then I ate it. It was oatmeal, and now it’s in my belly.

The reason for so many potatoes and for why I eat almost the same thing everyday, is because there are a few foods that give you the most calories for your dollar– so I eat them as often as I can: bananas, potatoes, rice, oatmeal, beans, lentils, and bread. I’ve also learned that when fiending for calories, certain dishes need to be avoided, or kept as a measly side, to avoid feeling totally empty twenty minutes after devouring them. Soups are a waste of my time. And a salad, as a meal? What a joke.

This is a bruised banana, it was perfect a few days ago, but I will eat it tomorrow.

This is a bruised banana, it was perfect a few days ago, but I will eat it tomorrow.

The sheer quantity of food I need to shove in my face is exhausting. I can’t just have a bowl of oatmeal and be set for a few hours. If I’m going to be out of the house for more than 20 minutes, I have to pack myself an elaborate meal or hunger pangs will take away the pleasure of biking home. Before I realized this need for snacks, I would get caught, far from home, without the energy to ride back to my kitchen and my pantry full of sweet potatoes. So, with some protest from my wallet, I figured out how to fill my stomach as cheaply as possible while downtown. A bowl of rice and beans from Illegal Pete’s is only a couple of bucks when you walk in with a tear-streaked face, describing the miles and miles you have to ride, and–do you hear that rumble? That’s my tummy. Plus, bruised bananas from the grocery store are usually sold at a discount, and if you think about the necessary calories they contain, your gag reflex can be tempered.

I hate eating greens, so I decided to drink them. It was terrible.

I hate eating greens, so I decided to drink them. It was terrible.

While these treats are bearable, as I gain more experience riding about, I’m honing in on how to feed myself and avoid being stranded miles from home with a stomach digesting itself. Peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches can be beefed up by throwing walnuts inside. Rice and beans should be prepared and eaten in bulk, so I use a crock pot and always have a vat of bland–I’m a terrible cook– beans or lentils ready to go, along with a container full of rice. And while oatmeal is a great breakfast on its own, if coupled with a smoothie of blended bananas, you’ll pump at least double the calories into your system.

I eat three bags a week. Would I like some more variety? Yes. Can I afford it? No.

I eat three bags a week. Would I like some more variety? Yes. Can I afford it? No.

Biking about and eating like this has made me question other people’s diet choices. While not worth bragging about, I am often the skinniest person in the room. So when people go on about how carbohydrates should be avoided, or kept to a minimum, I can assure them that it’s not the potatoes making them chubby. That’s pretty much all I eat, and my love handles are my hip bones.

This is my life.

This is my life.

Of course, there is one unavoidable side effect of taking in such a large volume of food. But I don’t mind it one bit. It punctuates different parts of my day with brief moments of contemplation– short slots of time where there is nothing to do but think, and then panic, because I’m in a stall with no toilet paper.

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