24. The Food Monster

24. The Food Monster

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

The Food Monster

I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.
 ~Mae West

I thought I had killed it. I thought it was gone forever. For two years, five months, and 12 days (except at my son’s wedding when I splurged on one small piece of chocolate wedding cake, three petite mouthfuls of fettuccine Alfredo, and seven glasses of expensive champagne) I thought it had left my body. It had lived within me for all of my adult life. It was probably there developing its sick sense of humor and evil personality from birth, but it wasn’t until my adulthood that it finally showed itself to me. That’s when I knew I had a Food Monster living within me.

Before discovering the success of a low carbohydrate lifestyle, my diets lasted a day or two at best, and, even then, I cheated. With terrible eating habits dating back to my youth, my weight soared and my body expanded. I was an overweight woman trying to hide inside oversized garments.

However, when I discovered the low carbohydrate eating style, I had not cheated. By keeping my carbohydrate intake down and my sugar intake low, I was always full and satisfied, and I was becoming thinner and healthier because of it. I had gone to office birthday parties, and while others ate birthday cake, I nibbled on a three-carbohydrate chocolate bar. My friends said things like, “I don’t know how you do it!”

I knew my goal was more important than sugar-laden birthday cake. Out to dinner, I passed up warm bread and muffins, and I ate just meat and salad. I took pride in my strength and direction. A big treat for me was a piece of low carbohydrate cheesecake from a local restaurant or a handful of almonds eaten slowly over the period of several hours.

For the record, it had all been worth it. I lost more than 70 pounds and my goal was within reach. I looked so much better and could fit into fashionable clothes. I was motivated. I was driven. I wanted to be thin and fit and healthy.

Until yesterday! Yesterday, I needed a babysitter. Yesterday, I needed my arms tied behind my back. Yesterday, I needed duct tape on my mouth. Yesterday, I was bad.

The Food Monster who was hiding deep inside me finally showed its ugly face, a face I had not seen for a long time, but one that I immediately recognized and feared. I thought the Food Monster was gone, but it was just toying with me. It was playing games. It was lurking, waiting for my moment of weakness.

Yesterday was one of those days when I should have just gotten back in bed. Early in the morning, I was told my cat would need surgery to save his eyesight. I had gotten him to the vet too late, not knowing how dire his circumstances were. For several days, I had been putting medicine into his bad eye every hour on the hour in hopes that the eye could be saved. Yesterday I was told the cost of his surgery would be $2,200. I also discovered a leak in the roof over my garage, and the estimate for the repair of just the roof, not the inside painting, was several hundred dollars. I got my Visa bill, which included several visits to the veterinary eye specialist, one expensive car repair, and bills I didn’t want to think about. When I got the mail there was a notice that I had been selected for jury duty. Yesterday was one of those days.

That’s when I started making cookies for my husband to take to work. I had made 10 dozen of the same cookies a week earlier. My husband took the cookies to work, and the staff loved them. I think my husband loved them more than his staff since “there’s never anything good to eat” in my carbohydrate-free kitchen. When I made those cookies last week, I did not even lick the cookie dough off my fingers. That is how well-behaved I was. It was so difficult, but I was perfect. I was so in control. Thus, I volunteered to make more cookies.

However, that was before my day started going from bad to terrible.

Unfortunately, in the middle of all the stress, I burned the first tray of cookies. Doesn’t it just figure? Couldn’t you have predicted that? I would not have burned anything if I were under the covers pretending to sleep.

That was when it happened.

Somewhere from the depths of my stressful day, the Food Monster surfaced with its evil laugh. It forced my hand to grab a hot cookie from the tray of burnt cookies, and it forced me to shove it into my mouth, burning my tongue and my palate. Then it made me chew. It made me chew fast. And then it forced me to swallow.

Mentally, I was unable to count the carbohydrates or the sugar that had just entered my system. Nowhere in my time on a low carbohydrate existence had I ever needed the carbohydrate count of homemade chocolate chip cookies, so I could not add it to my daily total. However, inside, I knew it was way over the top.

However, did this satisfy the Food Monster? No, it forced me to take another hot chocolate chip cookie, chew it, and swallow it.

I tried to rein it in, but the Food Monster was totally in control, and I was out of control. I had kept the Food Monster locked up for so long, but it was loose, forcing me to eat a third and then a fourth extremely hot, right-out-of-the-oven burnt chocolate chip cookie.

I was sweating and feeling remorse and guilt. Yet, until I found my inner strength, grabbed the tray of burnt cookies from the Food Monster, and dumped it into the trashcan, I was under its spell.

I sat down, drank several glasses of water, and tried to stop hyperventilating. I called two friends and my husband, and I admitted what the Food Monster had just forced me to do. All three told me that eating four cookies would not make me gain back the weight I had lost, but the guilt remained. My husband suggested I go for a brisk walk. He said the exercise would help me work off what the Food Monster had forced me to do, and he said it would help alleviate the guilt I was feeling.

What the Food Monster did was remind me of just how easy it would be to lose control again and fall back into my old, bad habits. I love my low carbohydrate lifestyle. I love feeling attractive and feeling healthy. I love knowing I am in control.

However, yesterday I lost control. It reminded me that we who have had eating problems in the past will always live with them inside us.

Yesterday I went for my walk and did an extra 20 minutes on my exercise bike. The extra exercise did help relieve some of the guilt and helped me work off the extra carbohydrates. Then I mentally sent the Food Monster back to its cell, and I threw away the key once again. I know the Food Monster has an extra key hidden away, though, and I am sure there will be a time when the Food Monster uses it again. I will just have to be stronger and be ready to send it back to its cell when it does.

~Felice Prager

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