When I was 20, I learned about how horribly I’m susceptible to what I call the “Buffet Is Closing” cognitive bias. Imagine you’re sitting at your table enjoying food from the buffet when the waiter walks up and says “we’ll be closing the buffet soon, so please make sure to take something now before we take it away.” What usually happens? (at least in my case) You go to the buffet and load up two plates with much more than you’d normally take just in case you’d miss out.
Maybe this is FOMO or Scarcity or how those given multi-coloured M&Ms ate 43% more.
My young self was trying to get in shape using Tony Little’s Body For Life. Being an extremist, I’d follow it strictly, eating six meals with fist size protein and fist size carbs. And then on the seventh day a cheat day. Or as my younger self thought about it FREEEEEEEEE DAAAAAYYY!! The most wonderful day in the world. I lived for free day!
I could put Michael Phelps to shame with a 4,000 calorie breakfast. Chocolate croissants, BBQ chips, ice cream. I could get over 10,000 calories in by the end.
And at the end… well, when does Saturday end? At midnight? No! When I go to bed. 2 AM. 3 AM… One last snack before a week of priestliness.
That snack could be an entire cheesecake.
Sunday was usually a horrible post binge hangover. It might take until Tuesday before feeling normal again. I wasn’t obese and was exercising normally, but I just felt off.
On a Saturday before Passover, the perfect storm hit.
There was a limited edition 2L container of coconut cream pie ice cream in the freezer and the freezer needed to be cleaned out of chametz (potentially wheat-containing food that is not kosher for Passover food). I had forgotten about it until late in the free day. So what kicked it?
- Feelings of obligation (I needed to clean for Passover)
- Feelings of guilt (I couldn’t throw out 2L of ice cream… my grandparents hardly had anything to eat during the War)
- The normal feelings of free day and that the “buffet is closing”
I went to bed early Sunday morning with most of that ice cream thawing in my gut.
The next day, something broke.
I started to have symptoms that were different than the normal heart burn and headache that I had before. They got worse. I will spare the details.
When the symptoms persisted the next day, I went to the emergency, and I missed a final exam in fluid dynamics that I’d need to retake in the summer.
The doctors shrugged it off that it wasn’t something imminently life threatening but that I should get it checked out.
This sent to me to the gastroenterologist. Eventually, I’d have a colonoscopy that didn’t see anything abnormal. However, I couldn’t get an answer for the very clear symptoms I had and why eating what I did would have caused them.
Searching online on Yahoo! didn’t reveal much. I tried to look on a nascent Google. Nothing. WebMD was relatively a much bigger deal then… and also gave me nothing.
Since it was a one time thing, eventually I forgot about it. A few years later it happened after eating a bit too much (nothing as bad as the first time). Still nothing online. A few years after that, nothing.
Recently, the symptoms appeared again and on this search… bang… it was a like an avalanche of information. People describing the exact same symptoms, what had led to the onset, and the diagnoses they received. It gave a very link to the strange symptoms and the culprit.
That led to tons of articles and at least relief that it wasn’t just me. In this case, I didn’t want to be a unique butterfly or think of myself as a faker.
This led me to the bigger question about why the information only became discoverable by me recently. It’s the result of decades of sharing of knowledge by others.
Everyday, billions of connecting people are communicating and sharing their experience and the result, over time, is a huge body of knowledge that will hopefully make us individually much more knowledgeable.
I learned about myself only because people en masse were talking about themselves and sharing their problems. There are others likely wondering about the same things any one of us is wondering about.
Takeaway: don’t overdo it on the ice cream at night.