Post-equinox appetite syndrome: eat, den

Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2001

Recently, while we were all sleeping, the sun tiptoed across the equator and day and night everywhere were briefly about the same length. Not quite everywhere at the same time, but in a slow westward motion. I had to look this up and was entranced to learn about a "precession of equinoxes" from my dictionary. It explained this westward precession is "caused by the action of sun and moon upon the protuberant matter about the earth's equator in connection with its diurnal rotation." Think about that a moment and I'm sure you'll agree that we all, as passengers on said rotating earth, are a part of this splendid natural event. At our latitude, as our personal diurnal rotation slows with the onset of darkness and nasty weather, the protuberant matter about our personal equators can easily expand.

Nita Nettleton can be reached at

It gets worse. In technical terms, the equinox drags its anchor across our protuberance and triggers a violent mood swing in the appetite regulation department of the brains of most bears and sensitive people like me. (I'm sorry, I should have advised the children to leave the room before discussing this.) It's called hyperphagia and those of us so triggered wake up the morning after the equinox and say, "Boy howdy, I need to eat like mad and get ready to den!"

Bears preparing to den need to pack on fat, lots of it and quickly. Food sources that may not have been particularly attractive earlier in the year are suddenly irresistible. It's the same with me. I no longer care how old donuts are and the three-pound bag of M&Ms suddenly seems like a wise investment. I haven't hit the bird feeder yet, but I am into the skin, brains and eggs of anything I eat, forget the meat. Fortunately, I read books and know that the sun will come crawling back in a few months and this will all be over. So, short of actually going into a den with the bears for the duration, I will be one sorry protuberance if I don't counter the compulsion of hyperphagia. It isn't easy.

Today, when I saw myself reflected in the toaster, just like Rosemary, eating half a dead cow (mine was mostly cooked and covered with barbecue sauce), I realized I need to get serious if I am going to save myself from hyperphagia. I made a little sign to wear pinned to my shirt that says, "Please, no matter what I say, no matter how I beg you, do not give me a bite of your carrion." I need the help. I used to scoff at people who claim to have quit smoking, but really just quit buying and bum from their friends, but now I am the bum asking for spare cookies. Or a piece of pie.

Any other time of the year, I can bake an oven full of pies or dozens of cookies and bag them for the freezer or give them all away. Not now. No, now they would all be delicious and all be mine. I went through the pantry and removed the common key ingredients for everything I could think of. Any baking now will have to be pretty dang creative. There was a time, years ago, late one fall when I made a sausage and grapefruit pie, but that still grosses me out now, so I don't think I'm that far gone yet.

I am determined to get through this year's dark time with some grace. To keep my mind and protuberance out of the kitchen, I have piles of books, warm clothes, snowshoes, a world-class trail system, a supportive household and lots of interesting work to do. I also have a time lock on my jaw and a support network, Hyperphagia Phools, in my speed dial. I'm considering subscribing to a filtering service at the local grocery stores, too. They have people who will go through your cart before you check out and remove all the stuff you shouldn't be eating. They charge you to do this, of course, since they are in the business of selling you that monster bag of M&Ms, but it's worth it. That should take care of the dark-crazed appetite issue, next I need to get to work on ... something about my diurnal rotation, but I can't remember what it was. I'm so tired, I bet I could sleep through to March. Are you gonna eat all those fries?

Nita Nettleton can be reached at

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