As I walked into my break room at work, a colleague named Joseph was setting out a veritable smorgasbord of sugary goodies, replete with everything from fun-size candy bars to full-size donuts, purchased at Ralph’s (the local grocer chain) on his way to the office for everyone to enjoy. Thank-yous abounded from my coworkers in gratitude for Joseph’s delectable donations.
I hated Joseph.
I didn’t actually hate Joseph, per se, but the presence of the sweets made me miserable. My woe didn’t stem from an inability to resist stuffing my pie hole with apple turnovers—in fact, just the opposite. I couldn’t bring myself to touch a morsel, and somehow, that was the source of my agony.
So why didn’t I just eat a donut?
I grappled with this question for hours, all the while watching my peers devour blueberry muffins out of a plastic container with a long ingredients list, the mere sight of which set my tastebuds atingle. But I didn’t join in their saccharine revelry. I wanted to know why.
Maybe it was because I was trying to eat healthier? What if I were simply exercising willpower, abstaining from indulgence for the sake of my well-being? That would be a perfectly reasonable explanation.
Well, it would be, save for the fact that my diet has recently comprised of items that cannot, in good conscience, be considered either “healthy” or “food.” I often rush to Little Caesar’s to grab a pizza that has sat in a warming oven for an hour too long, then consume that crusty disc of cheese and pepperoni for every meal until it’s gone. One night last week, I wolfed down half a pint of ice cream after polishing off an aptly named Fatburger and equally well-titled Fat Fries. My past two consecutive dinners consisted solely of a slice of bread with hummus, too many dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and an unreasonable portion of frozen soy dessert.
I was not on the healthy train. That wasn’t my answer.
But maybe I was trying to get on board that carrot-coated choo choo? Perhaps I had realized how poorly I’d been behaving, and decided to turn over a new spinach leaf? I had brought a salad for lunch, after all, so maybe this day would be the first in my quest for non-diabetes.
To my chagrin, that was also a blatant falsehood. While I dutifully munched my sad bowl of green, I managed to ignore the half-eaten family size packages of varying flavors of Oreos that surrounded me, their resealable closures tantalizingly ajar, all the while thinking only of how I needed to make a Trader Joe’s run after work to restock on vegan cherry chocolate chip faux ice cream because the tiny portion remaining in my freezer would certainly not get me through the night.
I had no intention of cleaning up my diet. That wasn’t my answer, either.
Maybe I was hesitant to add more pounds to the many I’d surely been tacking on from my honeyed binges? Again, not quite: confoundingly, despite my habit of passing out asleep on the couch at midnight from sugar comas, I’ve of late shed weight at an alarming rate; my mom told me I look as though I’m wasting away.
Maybe I had qualms about consuming such cavity fodder in front of my cohorts and wanted to preserve my disciplined image? Alas, no, because the previous week, I had rather visibly dived into a manager’s gourmet birthday cake with all the fervor of a twelve-year-old boy eating anything that isn’t a vegetable.
Maybe I was afraid of dental maladies resulting from said cavity fodder? Not likely, because I polish and pamper my chompers every day like they’re the Crown Jewels of England.
I hadn’t been eating well and seemed not to care about doing so. I had suffered no unwanted cosmetic changes or self-consciousness from doing so. What was holding me back from tearing up that platter of brownie bites with not one, not two, but three different variations of sugarcoating? Why did I not dare palate a single forkful of iced golden-brown prepackaged cinnamon roll, for which I so desperately longed? To what end did I self-inflict this torture?
As the confectionary cornucopia dwindled to a syrupy smattering, its molded cartons slowly being emptied of their toothsome contents, I watched my friends bask in the simple pleasures of baked goods and stewed, grumpy and confused, refusing to partake in their fun. I failed to understand why I couldn’t just pop a Milky Way Midnight and get over myself.
The day wore on; at last, I clocked out. But instead of going home, I found myself staring at the lone remnant of the day’s feast: an oatmeal raisin cookie. Perhaps it was the exhaustion from pondering this quandary that made me do it, or that peculiar loss of judgment that follows a long day of work. Whatever it was, I was helpless to stop the urge that overcame me.
I ate the cookie.
It was sweet and contained oatmeal and raisins, as advertised. But it wasn’t… well, good. It was aggressively mediocre, a cheap, middling biscuit produced in a factory.
That’s when it hit me: I didn’t eat a donut because I knew it would be awful.
Everything in that spread came out of sealed packages and, ergo, off of a conveyor belt. And though I’d been making dietary decisions with all the discretion of a raccoon, I had at least refrained from stooping to the level of shrink-wrapped convenience store delicacies. I knew I deserved better, and had subconsciously protected myself from the soul-darkening disappointment of a bad donut.
Armed with a renewed sense of self-worth, I drove to Trader Joe’s, picked up my bougie fake ice cream, and shoveled it down until my mouth buzzed. It felt good to treat myself again.