How Early Is Too Early For Lunch?


From the minute you sit down at your desk, it calls to you, sings to you, like a siren’s call beckoning horny sailors to a watery, shipwrecked grave. No matter the time of day, you salivate for it. It wants you, it drives you wild, it makes you lose control, and you can’t focus on anything else until you get it.

I’m talking about your lunch, you pervs.

Whether you lovingly made it and brought it from home and stuck it in your work fridge, taking the time to write your name all over it so Jen in marketing doesn’t steal your pudding snack pack (again) or it’s a Quesarito waiting to be born–the beans, rice, and meat just crying out to be tucked into the warm embrace of a cheesy tortilla–it’s the only thing getting you through the first half of your day. However, like clockwork, as soon as your first (or third) cup of coffee runs out, you’ve finished responding to all the emails that came in overnight and boredom sets in. Your hunger pains start. They come early and often, and you won’t be satisfied until you fill yourself to completion. We’re still talking about lunch, you filthy animals.

But here comes the question that has vexed philosophers and scientists for millennia: How early is too early for lunch?

Before 10:30 a.m.:

Whoa. Slow down, hotshot. You might hurt yourself. If you’re that hungry before 10:30 a.m., you clearly didn’t eat enough for breakfast, if at all. It’s the most important meal of the day, as preachy ’90s cartoons would have us believe. Solution? Walk down the street and get some McDonald’s. You might still be early enough to catch the end of McDonald’s breakfast or, if you’re feeling bold, try to order the “Mc10:35,” which is an unholy concoction from the McDonald’s secret menu: The ham and egg from an Egg McMuffin with the patties and cheese from a McDouble. If that life-affirming brunch abomination isn’t enough to curb your hunger, seek professional help.

11 a.m. to Noon

Now we’re getting into the “slightly acceptable” territory. You’re still going to get some dirty looks if you heat up last night’s Chinese takeout leftovers in the office microwave while some people are digesting (or possibly still eating) breakfast. But if you’ve got something subtle, like a sandwich, or if you packed a snack with your lunch–chips, pretzels, Jell-O, or even vegetables, for the health-conscious–now’s the time to eat that. It’ll hold you over until later.

Noon to 1 p.m.

You made it to the brass ring. Noon is truly the Cadillac of lunch time. Odds are, you’ve been eating lunch at the crack of noon since preschool all the way through high school and maybe college, and you still have a primal instinct to choke down a PB&J sandwich before going outside to play Freeze Tag. Unfortunately, those recess days are dead, gone, and never coming back, but the hunger remains. But before you eat at the crack of noon, consider the fact that you’ve only spent about three hours at work, and you have anywhere from five to seven (or more) remaining. You might want to hang on just a little bit longer.

1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

This is the sweet spot. The true mid-point of your day, this is what lunch was made for. Your boss has already yelled at you three times, you messed up some report, and you already spilled coffee on your khakis. You need a break. Take a walk and go get that Quesarito, heat up your leftovers from last night, or unwrap the sandwich that you or your significant other or your mother lovingly made for you. The taste of sweet, sweet victory will help you power through the rest of your day. Also, this should set you up for a 3 p.m. bowel movement, which should help the time go a little faster. At least you’ll be away from your desk for a bit.

2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Hmm. Bold choice. Maybe you were wrapped up in meetings or on a conference call and your lunch was just a little too far out of reach. That’s okay. You’re still in the clear. You might even be able to get away with having your lunch quickly and not spoiling your dinner. Just don’t get crazy and eat a massive meal, and try to avoid Hulking out on people because you haven’t eaten yet. When your boss calls you in for a meeting, resist the urge to say to him or her, “You’re making me hungry. You won’t like me when I’m hungry.”

3 p.m. to The End Of The Day

God, what have you done? You’ve created a monster–you. You’re trapped in a lunchbox of emotion: anger, depression, manic mood swings. You’ve waited too long to eat and you’re starving, but you can’t eat because you’ve waited too long. This will screw up your whole eating cycle. It’s a catch-22 from hell. Muscle it out, try to get to the end of the day, and reward yourself by eating double the dinner tonight. That’s how it works, right? Skip a meal, eat two meals later? That second Quesarito will be a bittersweet, cheesy tribute to the lunch you could have had. Stick today’s lunch in the fridge so you have lunch tomorrow and wait it out. Just avoid operating heavy machinery or talking to people who annoy you even on a good day. HR doesn’t take “but I was hungry” as an excuse for throwing a stapler at Jen in marketing’s head.

I’m off to enjoy this fantastic buffalo chicken sandwich on rye bread that my girlfriend made me because I can’t eat Quesaritos anymore. My cardiologist says I can only consume 10 more in my lifetime before my blood starts to congeal like melted cheese. Sounds like a wager to me.

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