Have you ever heard someone described as having “a healthy appetite” as a sort of backhand compliment, an indirect way to comment on how much the person is eating? That’s how I normally think of the phrase, but after recently being sick, I developed a much different interpretation of it.
The stomach bug hit me on a Friday night, and it hit hard. All day Saturday, I could barely keep anything down. I experimented with different foods, and I discovered that my body seemed to like carbs best: oatmeal, any other cooked grain, popcorn, crackers and cheese, beans, lentils, fruit. (Good thing I’m not trying to do a Paleo or Atkins diet!) While I normally enjoy eating raw vegetables – salads, carrots, celery and hummus, etc. – even the idea of them that day made me queasy, as did thinking about meat or fish.
Oddly enough, my drinking tastes also changed. I normally like tea, and hot water with lemon, as well as regular water. But I had no interest in anything hot that day, despite it being winter. I mostly craved ginger ale and room temperature water mixed with an electrolyte solution to help prevent dehydration.
By day two, I could keep things down, although my stomach still complained loudly to me until Wednesday. With each passing day, though, I found that what I wanted to eat slowly returned to normal. Monday I experimented with chicken, and that worked okay. Tuesday I could have carrots and hummus, and fish.
I also found that my appetite itself changed. I had a hard time detecting any physical sign of hunger related to my stomach while it was in turmoil. My only clue was low energy, but I had low energy anyway from being sick, so it wasn’t very helpful.
By the time Tuesday, and then Wednesday, arrived, I was simply delighted to feel true hunger symptoms again. I don’t think I’ve ever recognized so clearly the link between health and appetite, since it’s rare for me to be this sick.
I couldn’t have been happier to get back to having a healthy appetite, and I suspect it will be a while before I take it for granted.