“You’re Not Going To Eat All Of That, Are You?”

When I was a little kid, somewhere in the 8-10 year old range, my little sister and I would spend our summers swimming. We would swim all day long, sometimes for 6 hours out of the day.

We’d finally drag our selves out, exhausted, happy and hungry.

That is the one time in my life that I can honestly say that I experienced real hunger. The kind that is earned from hard work/play and demands fulfillment. Mom would always give us money to buy something from the candy machine that awaited us in the lobby of the indoor community pool.

What did I usually choose? A Payday candy bar! Peanuts bound together with enough gooey corn syrup to feed the glucose need, and slow burning legumes. My baby sister tended to choose the less dense, Mars bar or Mounds with coconut.

Before long, as I was munching away on the Payday (which took a long time to consume), she would see the rest of the candy bar sitting on my damp towel and ask, “You’re not gonna eat all of that are you?”.

In all actuality, I rarely ate the whole thing because half of it was enough to curb my hunger and sustain me until dinner time.

The lesson I took away from playing hard all day was that, even as a child I craved nutrient dense, slow burning calories to fuel my body.

As I prepare for my thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail this year, I’ve been reading through many, many other hikers trail journals, blogs and books in order to teach myself how to shop, prepare and pack for a 2700 mile walk. I’m seeing food as fuel for the body and not just something tasty. I find myself questioning: How many calories is in that? How many grams of fat? How much protein? Jennifer Hudson would be proud.

Admittedly, I am a bit of a ‘foodie” and love to cook and have always thought of food as a sensual, pleasurable experience. I can’t say that I feel that way about ramen noodles or processed foods, which I’m certain will be the majority of what I’ll be eating for 5 or 6 months. I’ve read loud and clear in trail journals how food really does become a primary focus for long distance hikers.

So, in order to quell some of the voices which are sure to whisper, “come on home, your kitchen awaits you…”; I am dehydrating some of the home-cooked favorites and will be mailing these culinary delights to resupply along the way. The last thing I want to do as I set out on this strenuous endeavor, is to sabotage myself with foods that starving animal would turn away from.

I am already wondering just how to handle the looks of longing, the noses lifted in the air sniffing the succulent aromas of my Grandmother’s recipe for beef stroganoff, and the eyes of my fellow hikers asking, “You’re not going to eat all of that are you?”.

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