I start making excuses mid-week when the kids are sick and when the long weekend rolls into view I announce my intentions to slide off the rails for the next few days. I have all the deliberate conviction of someone careening down a ski slope, braking mechanisms forgotten.

Two days later I’m headachy, short-tempered, and tired. I drink Red Bulls all day long, yawning. I stop exercising. I know exactly what my problem is but it doesn’t keep me from going back to the exact same stuff that’s making me feel bad. In fact, the worse I feel, the more damage I do to myself hoping to briefly feel better.

My jeans start feeling tight and I pick at my shirts, pulling and arranging their fabric so it doesn’t cling. My eyes look puffy, my skin breaks out. All the old habits are back, ingrained all over again: the rewards, the comforts, the Pavlovian response to the television being turned on in the evening.

In the morning I think how I should get things under control, at night I tell myself I’ll get back on track tomorrow. I start feeling bad about myself, which sends me right back to the source.

I want to stop, and at the same time the idea of stopping makes me sad and . . . scared, somehow. I’m overwhelmed by the idea of having to give up the instant gratification in favor of long term happiness.

It doesn’t come in a bottle any more, it comes in bags and boxes and wrappers, but the similarities go on and on. I recognize every familiar sign and symptom, everything I’ve already described and some I’m too embarrassed to. At my best of times I am incapable of practicing moderation when it comes to certain foods and so I avoid them altogether. Other times, I tell myself it’s only for a (weekend) (holiday) (while JB’s out of town) (while the kids are sick) (post-race celebration) short period, and who doesn’t deserve a treat now and then, assuming that pizza, cookie dough and cookies, crackers, ice cream, and pile of M&Ms is a treat.

I sound ridiculous, I guess. People say to shut up and eat a brownie, it’s not like you don’t exercise. And it’s hard to describe how sometimes a brownie really is just a brownie—a delicious square of chocolate and flour and sugar that you eat and enjoy and move on from—and sometimes it’s something else, it’s not food anymore. It’s the start of a yowling hateful hole in my body that I can’t fill no matter how hard I try. It’s a tangle of messy habits that have nothing to do with sustenance and everything to do with chasing a temporary pleasure. It’s about losing control.

The good news is I know how to quit. After all, I’ve done it about a hundred times now.


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