That Cookie is a Cannibal

Kelly Coffey

If you struggle with food addiction and/or compulsive overeating, maybe you eat the first cookie, but that cookie eats all the rest. Here’s what it can look like when one sets a binge in motion.

I’ve been enjoying a weeks-long period of true abstinence from the foods that make me crazy. 1 Energetic and rested, peaceful and proud of my clean streak, it’s a pleasure to wake up every day. Free of the insulin cycle, I am physically and emotionally at the top of my game. The satisfaction is all-pervasive, and I wonder how I could ever feel differently.

I walk into my favorite coffee shop on no particular Tuesday, eager for a latte. 2 As I approach the counter the lights seem to dim around me. One light shines on one spot beside the register. There, an index card taped to a deep blue bowl heaped high with rough chunks of broken cookie: “Try Our Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip!” I walk toward the counter, all casual like. I keep my eyes on the bowl and order the drink.

“It’s free. It’s small. It’s fine, “ I think, “I’ve been so good. A normal person would take a small piece. That would be the normal thing to do. I want to be normal. It’ll be good for me to try a bite. It’ll make me normal.” The barista calls out my order. I take a cookie chunk and pop it into my mouth – a wink, a smile. 3 Yes, that was so…so normal! A whole lot of over-thinking for nothing. I’m fine! Why was I worried? What harm in a tiny sample of friendly, fresh-baked, locally-sourced cookie? I am still captain of my own ship. Booyah!

The young barista turns away from the counter to consult on the size of an Americano. 4 Sensing that her return is imminent, I pincer-gripped a small handful from the blue bowl. My only thought: “Quickly.”

I hurry them into my mouth, watching her back, anticipating her turn. I mustn’t be chewing when she comes back to face me. Three chunks. Chewchewchew, swallow. Throw the last chunk into my mouth. Four. Cold sweat. Racing heart. Another hasty pincer-grip full, quick, soundless. More. Three at once. Soon the tenth. The eleventh I swallow almost whole as she turns back, smiling.

“Anything else today?”

“No, thanks!” I take my drink and walk away, changed, confused, and heartbroken. And hungry.

I have something important to tell you. I want you to remember it every time you see or think about an unassuming cookie (or whatever foods trigger a similar response in you).

That cookie is a cannibal. 5 And it’s hungry.

We’ve all heard the story: An alcoholic stays sober for 25 years, decides to have one drink, and wakes up two days later duct-taped to a giant stuffed panda under the Throgs Neck Bridge. 6 Two days earlier he made the conscious, sober decision to have just one drink. Just one. But then that one drink chose to drink the rest. That’s what addiction is. For whatever reason, we decide to eat that one cookie, because we think BY GEORGE I SHOULD BE ABLE TO, and that one cookie pushes us out of the driver’s seat. That cookie wants more cookies. That cookie wants them NOW.

Sadly, this doesn’t happen to everyone with sugar addiction every time they eat a triggering food. If it did, people would take sugar addiction 7 more seriously, and as a result hundreds of thousands more people would have a chance to recover. But there’s a possibility that a slip might actually begin and end with that one cookie, and that makes sugar and starch addiction that much more insidious. A cookie eaten with impunity one day can hardly inspire anything but another cookie two days later. So what if Silence of the Lambs 4: The Feast on Pepperidge Farm doesn’t happen until the hundredth cookie? If you have addictive tendencies around sugar and starch, it’s only a matter of time.

If you lose control when you eat certain types of foods, protect the power that abstinence affords you. Don’t chance handing over your power to a cannibalistic cookie.


  1. Sugar and flour. Call me crazy.
  2. A coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk.
  3. It’s a fact: If you don’t regularly wink and smile at your service people, you should. Unless you’re a creepy dude, then you most certainly should not. It’s a fact.
  4. A style of coffee prepared by adding hot water to espresso, giving it a similar strength to, but different flavor from, regular drip coffee. The strength varies with the number of shots of espresso and the amount of water added. If you actually care what your coffee tastes like, it’s almost always a stronger choice that drip coffee.
  5. Properly, a cannibal is a human who ingests parts of other humans. Obviously, I’m taking some liberties with the term. I’ll write a blog post for whomever coins the best term for a cookie-eating cookie. ‘Cookibal’ has already been rejected.
  6. Not everyone who wakes up under the Throgs Neck Bridge taped to a giant stuffed panda is a recently-relapsed drunk. Sometimes it’s a Freshman at SUNY Maritime being taught a lesson by upperclassmen. In both cases it’s an unpleasant experience, and one most of us would choose to avoid.
  7. And other, less prevalent types of types of food addiction
Showing 12 comments
  • Reply

    Wow, great writing! and excellent description of food addiction! I love your sense of humor too 🙂

    I’m curious if you’ve tried glutamine or any of the other amino acids to switch off the craving for cookies and carbs? They are lifesavers for so many addicts – and they take away the need for willpower.

    Food Mood Expert and Nutritionist
    Author “The Antianxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood, and End Cravings”

    • Coffey

      Hey there, Trudy!

      I never have taken supplements specifically to alleviate cravings. I’d eat my hat if it worked, but I’d be open to eating a hat, since it’s sugar-free 🙂
      You’re welcome to send me a package, and I’ll write a glowing blog post about it if it works.

  • Felicity

    Once again, spot on. Hey, no pressure, but when are you going to write your next post? 🙂 I have resorted to trawling your archives!

    • Coffey

      I’ll write again once I get through all this fan mail. ‘Cause, you know, suddnely I have effing FAN MAIL! 🙂

  • the pensive hexe


    You are too right about cannibal cookies! I like to bake things, and have discovered that there are cannibal pound cakes, cannibal coffee cakes and even an especially insidious species called cannibal cheesecake. I agree wholeheartedly with our abstinance over control philosophy. It’s waaaay too risky handing the reins over to that cookie! Keep up the fantastic (and inspiring) writing!!


    • Coffey

      Thanks, Karen! Welcome into my brain. 🙂

  • Mandi

    You’re getting fan mail because someone somewhere took one of your genius posts and shared it on facebook and it resonated with so many people, myself included. My doctor posted “5 Things I Miss’ blog and I was instantly hooked. Your ‘Portrait’ could be MY ‘Portrait’ (except I haven’t figured out the ‘abstinence’ part and a cookie… or 7… were my Hannibal today.) My eyes actually welled up as I read it because, “FINALLY! Someone understands and has been able to put my emotions into words!” Especially with ‘the anticipatory binge.’ I actually wrote a similar blog (http://carbbreakup.tumblr.com/post/61156333346/the-binge) but not nearly as eloquently and to-the-point as you have. So, thank you. And please keep it up. You’re inspiring people on the other side of the country.

  • Heidi

    Fantastic writing! Finally someone who can write how I think. Just so happens that I am on day 7 of no sweets. Really excited that I found you. Can wait for more pure inspiration as I toss all of the born-skinny girls advice to the side.

  • Catherine

    My cannibal is chocolate – all types, all sizes. I can eat a block of chocolate in one sitting. Like most people struggling with weight I have lost, gained,lost and gained. Currently in the gaining stage. At 123 kilos this morning I sit here too scared to eat breakfast because once I start I don’t stop. I am the classic emotional eater. Thank you for sharing your experience. How can a person possibility understand unless they have been there. Do people honestly think we would have a weight loss industry that’s worth is in the billions if it was as simple as just stop eating so much and exercise more.?? Thank you.

  • Samantha

    I have known for years that sugar and flour crave more sugar and flour. I am a food addict, but just knowing that has never been the answer. Abstaining from all that white stuff, is. I am happy, joyous, and free…only when I remember that sugar and flour are not my friends, but just little devils in sheepskins. Thank you for posting this to remind me who I really am! Brilliant!

  • Michaela

    I’m struggling with a sugar addiction. Thanks for making me feel like i’m not the only one.

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  • […] talked about how it’s never “just one cookie” but ALL THE COOKIES.  (see here: http://www.strongcoffey.com/that-cookie-is-a-cannibal/) – that title is a winner, ain’t […]

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