A Study That Says Eating Fatty Foods Will Make You Drowsy?

The Curmudgeon didn’t need a study to tell him that. Why not? Because he proved that theory to his own satisfaction through his own little personal study just a few years ago.

As he has written in the past, The Curmudgeon works at home – a great arrangement, by the way. Occasionally, though, his presence is requested in the home office so he rises early, drives to the train station, and then takes a leisurely ninety-minute ride ((accompanied by a homemade muffin, iPod, ear buds, and a Kindle with the morning paper and a book) to a station that leaves him about a ten-minute walk from his employer’s Harrisburg, Pennsylvania office. For a period of about five months during the fall/winter seasons of 2012 and 2013 he traveled to Harrisburg almost every other Wednesday to attend a two-hour meeting with clients with whom his employer was undertaking a new project. Joining him at all of these meetings was the company’s owner and at some of them another of his bosses. The meetings were from ten o’clock until noon, and working for a company where many of his co-workers treat noon as a sacred time for lunch and abandon their desks with all the gusto of Fred Flintstone ‘s “yabo-daba-doo!” at the end of the work day, the delegation to these meetings didn’t bother walking the whole two blocks back to the office before departing for lunch: we went directly to a restaurant.

Now if you don’t know Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, it’s not a bad town but not exactly ground zero for fine dining, either. The town has some decent restaurants – far, far more than it did in the early 1990s, when The Curmudgeon had his first extended experience in the city – but still, lunchtime choices within walking distance are limited and many of them are restaurants in bars, which means that for the most part they’re reheating food delivered by a Sysco truck.

LOTS of french fries

And the hallmark of such places, and certainly the case in Harrisburg, is that almost no matter what you order for your entrée the side dish is french fries – lots of french fries. The Curmudgeon isn’t a huge fan of french fries and, in fact, generally tries to stay away from deep-fried foods – although he does love him some KFC once ever year or two and recognizes that at least some of that Chinese food he eats is fried – but overall, he doesn’t eat much of it. Still, if it’s on his plate and he’s hungry he’s not going to be able to resist.

The beginning of the end of these day trips to Harrisburg is when The Curmudgeon gets on the 4:30 train back to Philadelphia. During this period of frequent trips he noticed that he felt drowsy during the afternoon and then exhausted by the time he took his seat on the train.

Now there’s something you need to know about The Curmudgeon: he never, ever gets sleepy during the day. Since the time he was oh, about three years old, he’s never taken a nap without a fever of at least 102. He’s not saying that’s good and he’s not saying that’s bad, he’s just saying that’s the way it is with him.

He responded to this uncharacteristic sleepiness first by attempting to drink more water during the afternoon – not always a smart idea when you’re going to be on a train for ninety minutes and prefer to stay away from Amtrak bathrooms (seriously: peeing while standing on a moving vehicle could be an interesting Olympic sport) – and then, by making sure to have a snack on the afternoon train home.

It’s generally not hard to persuade The Curmudgeon to have a snack, especially if chocolate is involved.

It almost – but not quite – came to this

These little attempts to address this uncharacteristic afternoon drowsiness helped, but only a little, so The Curmudgeon decided that it must originate with the beginning of the trip: to get to the train station in Philadelphia to make the trip to Harrisburg he was waking up at 5:15, and since his normal wake-up time is 7:00 and he is neither a morning person nor a person who can go to sleep early the night before to help compensate for the lost sleep, he decided he was tired because he hadn’t gotten enough sleep and there was nothing he could do about that and the afternoon yawns were something he was just going to have to learn to live with.

About three-quarters of the way through these five months of bi-monthly trips to Harrisburg his boss needed to go back to the office after the client meeting before going out to lunch; he said he needed to make a phone call. (He wasn’t kidding anyone:   The Curmudgeon knew he needed to use the bathroom.) Even though the walk was only two blocks it put us in an entirely different restaurant orbit and we decided to go to an Irish pub, where The Curmudgeon ordered shepherd’s pie. Since there already are potatoes in shepherd’s pie, he had no fries that day.

The Curmudgeon was about halfway home on the train that day when he realized that he hadn’t experienced his usual afternoon fatigue.

And then, for reasons he still can’t explain, the light bulb went on: it was the french fries. He might’ve been getting zonked by the french fries.

So he set up an experiment. The next time he went out to lunch at home, on a weekend, he made a point of ordering french fries – something he never does. Lo and behold, he got tired in the afternoon. The time after that when he went out to lunch on a weekend he made a point of not eating french fries. The result: no unusual fatigue.

Then, as the bi-monthly trips to Harrisburg drew to a close, he decided to test his thesis for real, this time with the added factor of the extra-early awakening and night of less-than-usual sleep. That day, he summoned all of his will to resist the call of the french fries. The result: no fatigue.

Mystery solved, and now, all that’s left is to wonder how much money the Australian government spent to produce the results of that study that were published in the journal Nutrients.

And also to wonder why they didn’t just call The Curmudgeon.




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