It's amazing how different the world looks after a week of vigilance. The constant awareness of food has expanded into a corporeal experience of everything else, and this increased sensitivity is both pleasurable, and painful.
Take a strawberry, for example.
Usually, I would eat a strawberry without thinking much about the experience. It is simply there, I eat it, and there are more if I want them — or even if I don't. It doesn't matter.
But this week, eating a strawberry has been a decision, an experience, and an afterthought. Firstly, I pay attention to my desire to eat a strawberry. How strong is it? Where does it come from? What is it about a strawberry that is particularly attractive to me at that moment? Then, I have to contemplate the consequences, which in this case would be a depletion of resources — one less strawberry — and also of funds. I then must measure my level of desire against those foreseeable outcomes.
I decide that, yes, I want a strawberry more than I want anything else, and I want it now, rather than later.
I take one from the fridge and feel the compactness of its weight in my hand. I dig the stem out with my thumb, careful only to target the hard, white base. Upon first bite, the sweetness makes my mouth water. The coldness sends sharp pangs through my front teeth. I look at the half-bitten strawberry held between my fingers and notice the texture of its pink-and-white interior, the subtle hairs, the void within. I notice that the small dots on its surface come in an array of greens and browns. I realize later that I am having an experience. I am experiencing a strawberry, probably for the first time since my initial experience of one, when the flavor was new, the texture a mystery.
And as I write this, I suddenly feel the need to stipulate that no, I was not — and am not — high on any drugs.
Looking back at The Hunger Challenge, it makes sense to me now that this is what I would take away from it: a heightened sense of taste for the "moment," the experience of consuming.
In a consumer culture, consumption is so continual and instrinsic that the act itself is rendered meaningless. This week, however, everything I have consumed has been a conscious and poignant act. I have been in touch with the value of things, and have seen them in focus before my eyes rather than just a blur in my peripheral vision.
And the truth is, even though The Hunger Challenge is over — I don't want to stop seeing the beautiful simplicity of life, or lose my sense of taste for all its bittersweet moments.
To follow along with my experience of The Hunger Challenge, read: