Two Kalamata olives stare at me as I write this. They are reclining on a leaf of bright green spinach, like a pair of plump sunbathers on a pool float. I can’t tell if they are congratulating me for making the right dietary decision or mocking me because I did so against my will. I take my fork to a slice of cucumber nestled beside them.
You’re next, I say, silently, with my eyes. My Kalamata-olive-murdering eyes.
No Greek garden salad mocks me and lives to talk about it.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. For the past two weeks, I had been eyeing the frosted sugar cookie that beckoned to me from behind the glass partition. It was shaped like a tulip and swathed in purple frosting. We were meant to be together. I knew it. The cookie knew it. The barista who made my Americano knew it, and I think it creeped him out.
I’ll come back for you, I whispered as I took my iced coffee and headed to a workout. I’ll come back for you.
Cue music. End scene.
“And I want you to log your food so I can see what you’re eating on a daily basis. That will help us know what adjustments we need to make to achieve your goals.”
Ben, champion of food logging and crusher of dreams, demonstrated the app on his phone as I shed an invisible tear for the frosted tulip cookie.
Achieve my goals? That cookie is my goal! I thought.
“Okay,” I said instead.
And then I went home, downloaded the app, and began logging.
I had started working out with Ben earlier that week. In addition to prisoner squats and glute activation exercises, he had given me homework in the form of dietary documentation. And, to be fair, at no time did Ben say I couldn’t eat the tulip cookie.
I had said it. To myself. Because I knew what the tulip cookie was. It wasn’t just an afternoon fling. It was a gateway cookie to a lifetime of cookie addiction. Soon, I’d want a frosted tulip cookie every day. Then twice a day. Then with every meal. Before I knew it, I’d be involved with bigger, more sugary cookies. Double frosted. Extra chocolate. Triple fudge.
I’d been down that road before. It wasn’t pretty.
Remember when I went on the Whole 30 diet last summer? I did so because I was addicted to sugar. Like, really addicted to sugar. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, every night, to eat something sugary. Oreos. A candy bar. Cake. If a finished product wasn’t available, I’d settle for a spoonful of brown sugar straight from the bag.
But the Whole 30 eschews all sugars and starches, as well as all grains, dairy, additives, preservatives, and happiness. More ingredients are eschewed in the Whole 30 diet than you can shake a stick at, which is fitting, since sticks are basically the only thing you are allowed to eat.
Sticks, meat, and unsulfured prunes.
But after thirty days of eschewing, I found myself leaner, fitter, and free of my sugar addiction.
And, apparently, traumatized.
“Noooooo!” I shrieked, sitting bolt upright in bed. I looked around. The room was dark. And silent. I was several days into logging, and I had had a nightmare. A terrible nightmare.
Someone had purchased a cookie cake for me—it was my birthday or some kind of celebration—and inadvertently left the cake in the car, where it promptly expired. By the time the cake was discovered and delivered to my party, it was inedible.
“How could you let this happen!” I wailed to the faceless offender in my dream, tears streaming down my cheeks. “It’s ruined! The cookie cake is ruined! Nooooo!” And that’s when I woke up.
I wish I were making this up, guys.
A lot has happened since last summer’s affair with the Whole 30. Namely, cookies happened. And chocolate. And venti caramel macchiatos. Slowly, day by day, meal by meal, Oreo by Oreo, sugar began to reclaim its throne. My cookie cake nightmare was the roar of a displaced monarch. And unless I wanted to succumb to its rule once more, I had to stage an insurrection.
Enter the food log.
Congratulations! You completed your food log for Saturday, May 9!
The banner flashed across the app as I entered my final snack for the day.
“Thanks!” I said.
You consumed 1,768 calories more than your daily goal!
If every day were like today, you’d be 47 pounds heavier in 5 weeks!
“Well, now you’re just being rude.”
But I wasn’t too worried about the calorie limit. I had run eighteen miles that morning.
And a girl needs her fuel, yo.
So, what are my goals with the food log? To be a more mindful eater. I’m not so much concerned about the number of calories I’m eating as I am where those calories are coming from. As a wise friend once put it, you don’t want to put diesel in a Ferrari. The food log is to my diet what my running buddies are to my training. Both provide accountability, objectivity, and sarcasm. And as a result, I am a better runner.
That’s why, as I write this, two Kalamata olives are staring at me from a spinach leaf raft. That’s why, as I write this, the frosted tulip cookie sits neglected behind a glass partition. That’s why, as I write this, I am forced simply to look at the cookie with my eyes.
My Kalamata-olive-murdering eyes.
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.