IS IT JUST ME? - Down with hunger strikes! Up with eating!


In mid-June I read a story about a small but dedicated group of postal workers who had vowed to go on a hunger strike to protest that Congress has not passed legislation to reform the U.S. Postal Service.

My first thought was, "Wait, we still have postal service? I should check my mail box!" Then I remembered that only companies that send junk mail actually use the Postal Service, and I decided I can get that via email and save gas.

My second thought was to feel sorry for myself because my birthday falls in mid-June, and let's face it, birthdays only come around because we get older.

I stopped using the term "celebrate" in reference to my birthday when I turned 29. I now prefer the more accurate word "observed," as in, "On my birthday I observed the number on the scale and the number of white hairs in my beard both increased."

Of course, aging can't be helped. I could do something about the weight gain, but my wife says there's no sense in throwing out a perfectly good bathroom scale.

The real problem is I simply like to eat. This is different from people who enjoy food. Usually they mean they enjoy specific foods, usually of high quality. I, on the other hand, just like to eat.

Until the last few years this hasn't been a big problem because I have always been active enough to keep my weight down to manageable levels (meaning I can see all of me without having to get a second mirror.)

I enjoy food the way some people enjoy art - you know, those people who go to art museums on purpose. The people who go "ooh, ahh" and point out the finer points of paintings that, frankly, look like the artist tripped over a paint bucket.

That's me with food. About the only thing I don't care for is tofu, which as far as I can tell resembles a sea slug with all the flavor rendered out of it. There's no point to tofu, but pretty much anything else is fair game, (pun intended). This is why my wife and I recently walked into a local market that caters to Hispanic customers.

The ceiling was festooned with piatas made in China, and the shelves were full of items you won't find in a mainstream market. This was a great mini-vacation for me. If you haven't been to your local Hispanic market, go.

I had no idea half the stuff was even edible, let alone how to eat it. Prickly pears for example: well known as one of the bare necessities, but it beats me how to peel the things.

We ended up buying some guava fruit, sugar wafers, colas made with real sugar and bottled in Mexico, and a large chunk of sugared yam - which are among the top three fastest ways to promote tooth decay known to man.

Of course, all those things are pretty tame compared to the foodstuffs I grew up with. My father dictated a good portion of the menu in my parents home. His basic approach: If one man can eat it, another can and should eat it; and if nobody has tried a particular food yet, someone should.

I have sampled many strange delicacies, including beef tartar (raw hamburger mixed with raw egg and raw herbs of indeterminate origin), homemade trout caviar, heart, turtle, haggis, mule and roasted pigs head.

I guess I inherited my dad's tendency to look at something and wonder what it tastes like. Which is largely why I have never understood the idea behind a hunger strike, like the one doughty postal workers proposed last month.

A hunger strike is like punching yourself in the face until someone gives you what you want. As extortion methods go, it seems pretty apt to fail.

For example, imagine you are at work, (or better yet, you are at my work) and you need a stapler. No one will loan you their stapler, so you threaten to pound your face against your desk.

In my office, my coworkers would watch and take notes, and then (probably) call the ambulance when you knocked yourself unconscious.

In grade school I remember kids who would hold their breath until their parents gave in. My parents would have just let me pass out, knowing the breathing reflex would kick in once I was out cold.

"Feel better after your nap?" they would have asked me, had I ever tried this.

This is possibly why I hold such a low opinion of hunger strikes. If I ever have cause to protest some governmental action, I will go on an obesity strike. There is a precedent for gaining weight on purpose.

Fitness trainer Drew Manning recently made headlines by gaining more than 70 pounds to better relate to his clients. Actors like Tom Hanks and Charlize Theron have famously gained weight for movie roles.

If they can gain unsightly bellies for something as trivial as a movie role, why not as a protest? (I have a feeling Alec Baldwin will try to jump on this bandwagon.)

Should I ever protest, I will eat so much that I put myself at significant risk of heart attack or diabetes. Plus, I will publicly enjoy my obesity strike, thereby setting a bad example for today's youth. Michelle Obama will be forced to step in and intervene.

While I'll be sad to see my obesity strike end, there is one other benefit. Other Americans who struggle with their weight won't have to suffer from low self esteem. Instead they can claim a cause and be proud of their efforts to fight (indicate cause here).

That at least is my hope, because the only alternative is to hit the gym.

And as much as I enjoy eating, I dislike jogging.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at 509-526-8326 or


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