The Monster Who Lurks Within
By Felice Prager
I thought I had killed it. I thought it was gone forever. For one year, five months and twelve days, except for three hours at my friend’s wedding when I splurged on a piece of wedding cake and three flutes of champagne, I thought it had left my body. I thought because I was finally in control of my eating that I had starved the dastardly Food Monster who lived within me.
Before discovering the success of healthier eating, 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 a walking meatball trying to hide behind oversized garments and self-deprecating one-liners.
For the record, it has all been worth it. I have lost over sixty pounds and my goal is within reach. I look and feel much better, and I am motivated. I am a Size 8 – which is the first time I’ve worn a single digit size since before the birth of my sons decades ago.
Yesterday, I needed a babysitter.
Yesterday, I needed my arms tied behind my back.
Yesterday, I needed duct tape across my mouth.
Yesterday, I was bad.
The Food Monster, who was hiding deep inside me, showed its ugly face, a face that I immediately recognized and feared. The Food Monster had just been toying with me. It was playing games. It was lurking, waiting for my moment of weakness. It wasn’t dead; it was merely taking an extended siesta.
Yesterday was one of those days when everything went wrong. I found a leak under the sink in the bathroom. The mechanic told me my brake pads needed to be replaced. Then, besides finding my credit card bill in the mailbox, there was an invitation from the government to serve on a jury. Yesterday was one of those days.
That’s when I started making cookies for my husband to bring to work. I made ten dozen of the same cookies a week earlier. My husband said that the staff loved them. I think my husband loved them more than his staff since “there’s never anything good to eat” in my diet-friendly kitchen. Suddenly, he had 120 homemade cookies at his disposal. 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 in control. Thus, I volunteered to make more cookies to keep the staff (and my husband) happy.
However, that was before my day started going from bad to terrible.
It started when I burned the first tray of chocolate chip cookies.
Somewhere from the depths of my Thinner Woman, the Food Monster surfaced. It had the same deceitful disguise and it had the same evil laugh. It was very ugly. It forced my hand to grab a hot burnt cookie from the tray, and it forced me to shove it into my mouth, scalding my tongue and my palate. Then, it made me chew. It made me chew fast. Then, it forced me to swallow.
However, did this satisfy the Food Monster? No, the Food Monster forced me to take another hot, charred 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 at its mercy. The Food Monster was punishing me for keeping it incarcerated. It was loose, forcing me, AGAINST MY WILL, to eat a third and then a fourth extremely hot, right-out-of-the-oven burnt chocolate chip cookie.
It was horrible. I was sweating and feeling remorse and guilt. Yet, until I found my inner strength, grabbed the tray of scorched cookies from the Food Monster, and dumped it upside down into the trashcan that contained smelly, slimy cat food leftovers and the wrapper from uncooked chicken breasts, I was under its spell.
I sat down 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 sixty pounds, 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 pangs of 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 the old, bad habits. My support team reminded me that I love feeling attractive and feeling healthy. I love knowing I am in control.
However, I lost control yesterday long enough for it to remind me that we who have had eating problems in the past will always live with them inside of us. They will never permanently leave. We still crave the things that are the worst for us – even if they are scorched beyond recognition.
Yesterday, I went for my walk and did an extra twenty minutes on my exercise bike. The extra exercise did help relieve some of the guilt and helped me work off the extra calories. Then, I mentally sent the Food Monster back to its cell, and I threw the key into the ocean again.
I know the Food Monster has an extra key hidden away in its cell 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.
About this writer
- Felice Prager is a freelance writer and multisensory educational therapist from Scottsdale, Arizona. She is the author of five books: Waiting in the Wrong Line, Negotiable and Non-Negotiable Negotiations, TurboCharge Your Brain, SuperTurboCharge Your Brain, and Quiz It: ARIZONA. Her essays have been published locally, nationally and internationally in print and on the Internet. Learn more at www.WriteFunny.com.