Thursday, March 1, 2012

Uneasy Writer

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I had lunch yesterday with Jim Cervantes, a retired colleague—a poet, teacher, and former English department renegade—who is now pre-diabetic, not the sexiest adjective to add to that list, but hey, we all got somethin’. Jim’s doctor now has him counting carbs, which Jim does vigilantly. In fact, I’ve never seen a man so interested in carb levels.

But there we were, sitting at a table at Pittsburgh Willy’s, a gourmet hotdog establishment, both of us pounding down the Greek Willy with sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese and kalamata olives. Jim also had a Coke and examined the label for the number of carbohydrates: a whopping 39! He smacked his forehead. “39! I’m not drinking this whole thing. I’ve already had 25 for breakfast and 15 for my snack, and there’s about 15 in this bun and not much in the hot dog. That puts me at about 60 for the day without the Coke, 100 for the day with it.” Jim shook his head and glugged down his Coke, the old-fashioned kind that comes in a cold glass bottle. “That’s pretty tasty. I guess I’ll be okay,” he said, setting the Coke down, nearly drained. “I like to stick to the low counts and even with stir-fry tonight, I won’t go over 180.”

I admire Jim’s ability to stick to his low-carb diet, and happily so: He seems to enjoy having control over this part of his destiny. However, more than that, I was with him from the moment he discovered the Coke’s high carb level, through the glugging, all the way to the moment the empty bottle sat there, one-eighth of an inch left in the bottom to prove he was capable of denying himself.

I am not so good at that.

Case in point: Though I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, every so often a craving will arise late in the evening when I’m already in my jammies and home for the night. Hm, what’s in the pantry? Look look, bob, weave. Oh, how about those raisins? Bet those would be good. A half-pound of them later on The Night of the Raisins, I went to bed and slept like a baby. Over the next few days, however, I made a few extra and at times unexpected deposits, wherever I found myself when the raisins became so much more than just a snack. Disappointed in myself for being unable to eat just “some” raisins, I’ve decided to never purchase them again.

The same kind of thing happened with Balance Bars, whose name I think is ultimately misleading. Balance Bars are sold as health food; they promise a healthy blend of carbs, proteins, and fats. I bought them by the boxful for years; they were my first choice for an on-the-go snack, and they came with me everywhere: to work, to the car wash, to the Middle East. I didn’t leave home without them.

But then another craving came upon me—just a couple weeks ago, back when raisins were still allowed in this house—after dinner, when I was sitting in my chair watching TV with my cat. I tossed my cat aside and went to stand in front of the pantry again. Raisins? No, raisins are no fun. I know, how about a Balance Bar? Maybe two. I ate six Balance Bars that night in about a half-hour, fulfilling about three-fourths of my caloric needs for the following day including four times as much as the recommended protein. I lay in bed that night with a stuffed and solid belly, as if I’d eaten a medium-sized animal. Every time I turned over, my guts went “thud”. The only good thing that came from that binge was that I wasn’t hungry for much of the following week. I guess if you want to eat like a snake with jaws unhinged, Balance Bars might be for you. I don’t buy them anymore, though—too dangerous.

Cravings, binges, obsessions…we all have them. Like Jim watching his carbs but salivating at the sight of the Coke, we are all hard-pressed to ride whatever wagon we’re supposed to be on. There aren’t any magic tricks or secrets; it just takes discipline and persistence. So the next time your belly is bulging from a bag of chocolate macadamia nut cookies, a pound of cheese and crackers, and/or a family-sized platter of chicken enchiladas, don’t blame yourself.

Blame your inner Python.


  1. I'm glad to know who to blame it on. I'm just glad to know my weight isn't my fault.

  2. My inner python craves chocolate and salt. If I eat enough will it kill him (without damaging my own health, of course)?

  3. My inner python wants chocolate chip cookies! Maybe I have more of a cookie monster than a python... ;D

  4. Eat like a snake with jaws unhinged: that made me laugh.

    It's popcorn, for me...or worse, caramel popcorn.

    I just. Can't. Stop.