Eat What Makes You Happy
Written by: JoAnne Pearce
Anybody who has ever sat on a filthy sidewalk eating a donair at 4am knows that drinking can lead you to make some interesting food choices. Now, I’m not knocking curbside cuisine. Eating a snack whilst perched upon somebody else’s gently used bubble gum does have its own special kind of charm. I am also CERTAINLY not knocking donairs. In fact I probably eat more donairs sober than I did when I was drinking. The difference is that I don’t eat them at 4am, and I eat them because I want to, not because my brain is telling me that I’m going to die if I don’t.
When you’re a certain level of drunk, hunting down snacks at the end of the night is a blood sport.
Rounding up your wobbly friends, directing everybody to your favourite chow stand, elbowing your way through throngs of likewise-minded hungry club goblins, trying not to spill sauce all over yourself despite having limited motor skills… it’s a grind.
Personally, I was also highly prone to maudlin bouts of late-night fridge-diving. You know… that primitive act of grabbing anything edible and jamming it down your throttle as you stand in front of the fridge door, letting all the cool air escape into your kitchen. Whole chicken legs sucked right off the bone. Bite marks directly in the cheese and butter sticks. Gummy fists full of mayo lifted directly out of the jar and slapped onto plain slices of bread. Anything to assuage that deep, relentless, driving hunger.
There’s a name for this, and it’s called the ‘drunchies’. The drunk munchies. And there’s a few reasons why we get ‘em.
Research suggest that alcohol stimulates nerve cells in the hypothalamus that affect appetite. Despite alcohol being a calorie-dense nutrient, ethanol also activates the same neurons that normally signal starvation. Despite being pretty full, then, drunk people tend to feel so hungry they could eat a buttered monkey. Add to this a bottomed out blood sugar level, mixed with impaired inhibitory function, and you’re going to ask for that buttered monkey between two bread loaves with a meal-sized side of carbonara, thank-you very much.
Then, of course, there is the tendency to not eat a proper dinner when you are drinking, especially if you got swept away by happy hour. Personally, I rather enjoyed a buzz on an empty stomach, and would often postpone seeking out proper sustenance until I was at the buttered-monkey-hand-in-the-mayo-jar stage of intoxication. At this point, I would smash back a day’s worth of food in one sitting, then head promptly to bed 15 minutes later, setting myself up a sleep more fitful and erratic than Elon Musk’s management style.
Now, though, my relationship with food has completely changed. Food IS my reason to go out. You’re having a birthday party? How nice. Will there be snacks there? No? Drinks only? Sorry, can’t make it, I’m planning to get trapped in an elevator that night.
Everybody has their own unique relationship to food, and there is nothing inherently wrong with any kind of food.
If buttered monkey sandwiches are your thing, then to that I say bon appetit! What changed for me when I stopped drinking, was that I also stopped eating like I was throwing wet sand on a dying campfire. Food is no longer a perfunctory extinguishing of hunger, or an inconvenience, or something I do to ‘soak up’ whatever hellwater I plan on throwing down the hatch directly after.
Now, I get really really excited about eating dinner. I love checking in with myself about what my body is craving, be it cupcakes or cauliflower, and then making an adventure out of procuring that thing. Learning to nourish my body with what I am hungry for, when I am hungry for it, has been a revelation. It is hands down one of my favourite parts of being sober. Bon appetit!
Image credits: Jon Tyson, Koolshooters, Steshka Willems, Thgusstavo Santana, Andrew Paul