Be honest. When no one else is around, what do you eat? Though I ate that beautiful pasta for lunch yesterday, what I ate alone used to lie somewhere between chocolate and cake more often than not. Yeah, I ate a lot of dessert by myself. And while on some level I always knew that wasn’t quite right, I realized recently how far from center I was.
Now for those of you who rarely get days alone, treating yourself to a decadent meal or dessert probably isn’t a big deal. But now that I work from home, I spend most days eating alone for at least 2 meals a day. So desserts weren’t really a treat for me so much as a way to fill a hole. I could ramble on for pages about the psychology behind this behavior and what brought me to this unhappy dependence on sweets, but that isn’t really what I want to focus on right now.
The truth is it is easier to give in or give up than it is to change the things you know aren’t right. And I have given in a lot. But I think my efforts to be healthier are starting to take root because yesterday I had a small victory.
I was at the grocery store to pick up a couple of things I needed to make dinner: the Pad Thai from the latest issue of Everyday Food. It used to seem wasteful somehow to cook an entire meal for myself so instead I would eat an egg sandwich or a bowl of cereal for dinner. But I have mostly gotten over that, and now I enjoy cooking a nice meal for myself almost as much as I enjoy cooking for others.
Out of habit I walked through the bakery section even though I didn’t need anything there. I perused the refrigerated case that held individual slices of cake. I picked up a piece of tres leches cake and put it back. I looked at the black forest cake. I eyed the cheesecakes and nearly grabbed a piece of fudge cake out of desperation. But instead I took a deep breath and collected myself. Then made the decision right then that I would not buy any of those cakes. And I walked away.
I picked up the rice noodles and limes that I needed and headed toward the cash register. I almost made it too. But the gravitational force of the cookie aisle pulled me off course. I stood there gazing up at the Oreos, Nutter Butters, Pepperidge Farm soft baked, and the iced oatmeal cookies. In some ways I was disgusted by the cookies there. I knew if I looked at the ingredients I’d find all sorts of things I don’t recognize as anything I would use in a cookie. And yet, many of those cookies are old friends of mine so it was hard to leave. But I did.
When I finally made it to the checkout line, the orange wrapper of the Reese’s peanut butter cups was like a traffic cone pushing me into a different lane. I slowed down to take in the candy display in all its splendor. Maybe I could just have a Three Musketeers. It barely has any fat compared to the rest… and it’s chocolate. But that logic has proven faulty in the past because the Three Musketeers is never as good as a caramely Twix and it doesn’t satisfy like a Snickers. Worst of all, it’s sickly sweet nougat always leaves me feeling gross.
So I left with only the things I needed to cook dinner for myself. I was twitching a little like an addict in detox, but I made it home without any cake, cookies or candy. In the end, I didn’t even make dessert last night… and somehow I survived.