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.
- Sugar and flour. Call me crazy. ↩
- A coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. ↩
- 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. ↩
- 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. ↩
- 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. ↩
- 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. ↩
- And other, less prevalent types of types of food addiction ↩