As many might guess, the Japanese diet is very different from the American or European diet. Although in recent decades Japanese people have taken to eating MUCH more meat than they did before the wars, one thing that hasn’t changed so drastically has been the everyday intake of rice.
It’s still a major staple in most meals here, and one of the primary crops that’s farmed, although bread and all things French/European grow more popular by the day. Because of this, the most common thing eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner is rice.
Rice with an egg! Rice with some beef! Rice under that sashimi! Rice balls with tasty things in them (onigiri)! Fried rice! Rice with special rice flavoring (furikake) so you don’t get bored! OMG marinated beef on rice (gyudon)! Have more rice!
I could eat rice with every meal, every day, and not get bored. I do that most days, and I’m not bored at all! But there’s one problem: insulin and a blood sugar spike (these are technically two things, but they’re related). This causes me to have something I refer to as the ‘rice crash‘: crashing 30-45 minutes after eating, although I’m not tired! I still crash.
This is a major problem for me. I work 12:15 – 22:00 Wednesday – Friday. I generally see about 10-12 students each day. There is ONE 40-minute break in there for lunch/dinner, right in the middle. If I eat rice in that break, it will generally cause yawning. And yawning is an absolute SIN at my job: I can get bad reviews if I get caught doing it, which could lead to me losing my job. No one wants that, so I have to do everything in my power NOT to yawn.
Make no mistake: there are tons of reasons to yawn, but I’ve made sure to eliminate most of the causes from my daily routine. I get more than enough sleep, I am awake and alert for my lessons, and I generally don’t find my students to be boring at all, so there’s really no reason for me to yawn. But the yawns come like clockwork if I eat more than 1 cup of rice for lunch.
I’ve experimented: some weeks, I went all 5 days without touching rice, except for early in the morning for breakfast. No yawns at the office. I also tried LESS rice: 1 cup at lunch seems to be ok, and to not cause yawning. But any more than that, and I’m crashing from about 17:30 – 19:00, without fail.
The issue here is that I LOVE rice, and it’s the easiest thing to get if I happen to not pack my lunch in the morning. A lot of my students have told me that due to eating it every day for their entire lives, they’ve developed a bit of a tolerance for it and therefore don’t crash after lunch like I do. So I could build up a tolerance, maybe, but it might take too long. I’m a patient person, but I’m not THAT patient.
So lately I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell I can eat that won’t cause a crash. For me personally, it seems to be JUST rice, and not other carbs or starchy foods like potatoes or bread/sandwiches. I guess I’ve built up a bread tolerance the same way my students have built up a rice tolerance? It seems only fitting that the most convenient thing I could eat, and the one I enjoy the most, is the thing that I shouldn’t eat because of my job situation. Of course that would be the case. It’s only the bottom half of EVERY bento I can buy around my office.
The things I’ve found that seem to work best are tofu (in all of its many forms, although I prefer to eat yakidofu (this is like tofu cut into cubes and covered/fried in yakitori sauce)), stir-fried vegetables, yakitori (fried meat on a stick!) and sandwiches. It seems that in general, I do best when it’s a protein-heavy meal. So the crab cakes are ok, as are cocktail shrimp.
We’ll see where I go from here. It’s been a bit of an uphill battle figuring all of this out. Now I have to put what I know into practice and see if I can find a way to NOT crash at 17:30 each day.