By Christopher Cudworth
Today we’re here to talk about appetites, so a definition is in order:
ap·pe·tite. Noun. A natural desire to satisfy a bodily need, esp. for food. A strong desire or liking for something.
Appetites. We all have them, or we die.
Losing your appetite for something is usually not a matter of fun. When you’re sick with the flu you can lose your appetite for food, but often not for drink. Yet even that won’t stay down. Sooner or later we have to eat and drink. Or we die.
Singer Jim Morrison of the Doors once sang, “But, if, we don’t find, the next whisky bar, I tell you we must die. I tell you we must die. I tell you, I tell you, I tell you we must die…”
And he did. We know for certain life often imitates art. But we sometimes lose lives in the process
Watching our appetites
So we have to watch our appetites carefully. Otherwise they can evolve into obsessions. Then addictions. And we can die from those.
By now you’re catching onto the theme here. We need our appetites to keep us going, but you can overeat, overdrink, over-sex and overthink. All our appetites are good for us, and bad for us too.
So what to do?
Going too far
You can run and ride to keep your appetites from making you fat or depressed or suffering from high blood pressure. But your appetite for running and riding can go too far. We’ve all seen it.
One former competitor from high school decided when he reached college that 250 miles a week was a good training program. He ran a marathon a day for weeks on end. Later on in life he developed a full-on mental illness. One suspects the latter actually dictated the former. His mental illness was present, just not fully manifested in his college years. Mental illness is a serious issue that deserves respect and treatment. It should not be stigmatized or ridiculed. But the interesting aspect of mental illness is that in this circumstance it illustrates the dangers of succumbing completely to our appetites. My friend and former competitor had an insatiable appetite for running, for sure.
But it was not the healthiest thing for him, either physically or mentally.
Cross training not always the answer
A teammate in cross country once developed a love for cycling. Instead of running all summer like the rest of us harrier mopes slogging mile after mile on foot, he decided to ride his bike for training. He rode and rode. 4000 miles he rode that summer, which for a high school kid on a half-assed shifter road bike was a lot of riding.
When he showed up for cross country practice that fall, he was in great shape. For cycling. His running wasn’t for crap because he had not been doing much of it. He’d only been riding. Which for the rest of us was a lesson in the specificity of training. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten, for sure. Running and riding are complimentary, but they are not necessarily conducive in terms of performance enhancement in one or the other sport.
The triathlete’s dilemma
Of course triathletes have to balance all that specificity and yet get in enough training to be able to swim, ride and run well. All in the same race. That’s a tough thing to do, especially if you’re not rich or retired.
There’s not a triathlete alive who does not obsess over the tri-balance. It’s the nature of the beast, and what a beast when it comes to the Ironman distance. And as any tri-guy or tri-gal can tell you, by the time you have trained to swim two miles, ride 112 and run a marathon, there is not a whole lot of room for anything else in your life.
Loss of sexual appetite
Here’s a little Warning: If you’re training for a marathon or triathlon and start neglecting other “responsibilities,” (male or females, listen up) your spouse or partner could get a little edgy when you’re too tired for sex, much less a candlelight dinner on the patio. And who can blame them?
Here you’ve got this toned, probably tanned body just begging for a ruckus in the sack– and you’re consistently not available?
Hell, even your dog knows better than that, following a rough day of lying on the sofa, pooping in the yard and tugging on the leash for a half mile walk, the dog still has the energy to hump your leg once in while. Or lollygag around the lawn, just a bitch in heat, begging for it like those seemingly insatiable gals on the Internets. Woof woof. Come doggie. Stay.
The whole country struggles with appetites
So despite your appetite for Ironman success, never neglect your partner’s appetites. “I’m too tired” does not fly well with those who can see our exercise appetites in fuller context.
And you know, divorce or a broken relationship is simply not that appetizing. Those with direct experience in those categories can fulfill your appetite for a reality check on that front.
Of course the genre we know as country music would not even exist were it not for cavorting lovers and the sweat-stained beds of pickup trucks. A gal I know insists it is true that country music is about much more than backwoods affairs and out of control appetites for beer and Bubbas. But it must be said that a little twang is usually good South of the Mason Dixon line. Just ask any gal you know.
A biblical perspective
Even the Good Book admits that it universally hard to control our many appetites. For example, when the bands of wandering Jews led by Moses and Abraham humped around the desert all those years, they literally got sick of munching scorpions and other crappy food.
So when God or a low flying pack of angels threw down manna from heaven, some people could not resist picking up more than they needed, just for overnight snacks. Because it looked like White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn, and who could resist?
Yet we know that God kicked their asses for being greedy and not controlling their appetites. And that suggests that whether you carbo-load or protein load, too much of a good thing is too much.
Guilt and sin
Our appetites hit us at the worst times, don’t they? Usually late in the evening when we’re going to bed. Then, it’s potato chips. Brownies. Apples and peanut butter. At least those are partly healthy.
Some people seem to avoid all that. We’ve all read about these amazing running athletes like Dean Whats-his-Ultra (starts with a K) who only eats ground up celery stalks and carrot shavings. And that’s for breakfast.
Rumor has it some cyclists only suck on wet washcloths between stages of the Tour de France climbing stages to keep their weight down.
Or perhaps that’s the mechanics, who are so stressed they can’t eat. We wonder why we can’t be just as disciplined. And you know the answer. We can’t control our appetites. That’s why ultramarathons even exist. We run and then run some more. Until we can’t. Then we blame our bodies, not our minds.
At war with our appetites
If there was a Control Your Appetite App it would sell 7 billion copies, because that’s how many people there are in the world (who knows for sure?) and every single one of them has an appetite. Sadly about 1/3 of them are actually hungry. All the time. It seems have the world is lustfully pursuing more while the other half would be happy for the healthier scraps. Appetites are relative in many cases.
We also can’t know the world’s population for sure because we can’t honestly tell if China is really telling the truth or if they’re busy hiding a billion or so soldiers in the mountains,armed to the teeth in case someone is actually stupid enough to invade their nation over cheap iPhones or something of that order.
America is stupid enough to do such things. Viet Nam comes to mind. And Iraq. Afghanistan II. We supposed the Taliban or some pack of nuts last time the world invaded there. To sum it up, we’re on an unappetizing losing streak when it comes to wars. Only the first Gulf War was an exception, and that’s because we quite before taking Bagdhad. Sometimes we get lucky.
Conservative appetites no oxymoron
Our appetite for world power seems to demand these ventures somehow, and war hawks from the radically conservative Right cheer from the sidelines or the backrooms while their war profiteer buddies haul in the dough.
War dodgers like Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney still seem to possess enormous appetites for the fight. Their greed and not-so-quiet hatred is propped up by populist piles of pent-up political frustration, jugs of liquid racism and multiple vials of illegal prescription drugs. Dick Cheney’s appetites for control have led to a series of heart attacks, and finally a transplant. But he never had any heart to begin with.
As for Rush, four failed marriages and the recent abandonment of millions of dollars in advertising have not convinced Limbaugh he’s wrong about anything. But we can be quite sure never admits to losing a fight, yet he would most likely advocate invading China if it would drop the price on oxycontin.
If America follows the appetites of power-drunk conservatives like Rush & Cheney to lead us into war with China someday, the results might unleash a fury never before seen on the earth. Out of the mountains might come that extra billion people they haven’t been telling us about, all with very shiny bayonets and flags bearing the slogan, “We Will Kill Your American Appetites.” That pretty much what any war is about. And that really is ironic since it is the politicians, not the soldiers who do the fighting, who have any real appetite for war.
At war with yourself
So let us be clear. Short of running into the enemy, it is good to have an appetite to run and ride. But you should know better than to turn it into a war with yourself over all the other things you need to do in life.
Okay: If you’re rich as the dickens and can train all freaking day, or you’re poor as hell and need a way to recover some dignity in this sometimes ugly, uncaring world, then have at it. Let your appetite for running, riding and swimming take over if you choose. No one will question you as long as you empty your garbage and mow the lawn once a month.
As for the rest of us lurking somewhere between part-way fit and oxygenatedly obsessed, we’re stuck chugging light beers and eating guilt slices of wheat or gluten-free toast, with honey if you’re lucky.
No appetite for corruption
Let us confess: It doesn’t even help much to turn a religious scrutiny on our appetites. Jesus never seemed to have it so bad, for example. For reasons that might have had to do with being the Son of God, he appeared to have absolute control of his appetites.
Except of course when he showed up at the Temple and got pissed about the money changers and selling those doves for sacrifices. Then he went absolutely bonkers, turning over tables and chasing people around like a man possessed. And yet, he told many people to sell their possessions. Being possessed and craving possessions do seem to go together. It’s called hoarding.
Thinking back to the angry temple incident, perhaps Jesus thought the doves would have been better used in a pie? Or maybe I’m missing the point.
Just like us
The Son of God certainly had appetites if he was fully human, but he did have one unfair advantage. If he didn’t want water at the time, he simply changed it into wine.
Only have 5 fish and a few loaves? Wave a hand and feed the five thousand.
That would certainly come in handy after a 5-hour training ride. You wouldn’t even have to run out to 7-Eleven for chocolate milk, because that’s your After, or your Everafter, or even your Hereafter. With Jesus it seems it’s all the same anyway.
High protein savior
There are rumors Jesus was really quite an athlete, as this picture of Jesus as a muscular hunk of manhood seems to imply.
What we do know is that he hung around the Sea of Galilee quite a bit, which could be a sign that he was trying to master the open water swim. Oh wait, he did walk on water. Is that cheating if you’re a triathlete? Insert your own Tri pun here. Jesus could swim. The Holy Ghost could ride and God could probably run a pretty decent marathon. A Trinity Team Triathlon! How awesome is that? Pretty awesome I’ll bet.
Prime time for fitness
If you read the Bible literally, Jesus did seem to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem awful fast. That suggests he either ran or rode to get from point to point. No one walks that kind of distance in the Middle Eastern heat. Not sane people anyway. Oh wait, the Disciples did that all the time. That’s probably why Saint Paul saw that vision in the street. It was just the heat. He was a pretty good writer at any rate. Love that Corinthians stuff. Makes a good wedding even greater. Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not boast, like most endurance athletes do after a marathon…
A devil of an appetite
The devil even tried to tempt Jesus with all kinds of appetizing offers, but Jesus held his own on every item. World power. Riches and kingdoms. Free Nikes. Jesus told the devil Stand Down! I’m doing my Spartan thing.
It’s hard to tell you this, but he did seem to have good abs in all those religious pictures from the Middle Ages. You don’t get that fit-looking without a few runs and rides under your belt. We don’t know much about Jesus between age 12 and age 30. Was he in constant training all those years, running the Bethlehem Marathon and competing in the Jordan River Ironman.
Suspicious years of absence
The Bible doesn’t say. And neither will we speculate. But most of the greatest distance athletes consider the years from age 12 to age 30 prime time for athletic greatness.
Did anyone check the records of the Roman games, circa 12AD to 30AD? Perhaps the Jews can lay claim to an Olympic champion.
Or just a champion over his own appetites. That’s enough for the Greatest Story Ever Told. About how a man nailed to a cross thought nothing of himself, instead giving up his life and conquering the dangers of our appetites that lead to sin.
It’s a pretty good plot line, you have to admit. Especially for those with an appetite for drama, mystery and a whole lotta faith.