Confessions of a Carboholic
After a fabulous weekend in New Orleans back in May I went into detox to dry out. And I’m not talking about alcohol, although I probably had more to drink those four days than was prudent. No, I’m talking about carbohydrates. For me, it’s not the demon rum, it’s the demon bun.
While my pals headed to the airport wondering if the three ounces of last-minute liquid they consumed in the cab would be allowed through security in their carry-on stomachs, I was climbing back on the wagon from a binge of another sort altogether. I’d had an endless excess of beignets, fried seafood, indulgent desserts and yes, the astonishing sugar content of the bottomless Hurricane cocktails I slurped. I was using again.
But bad as my Crescent City bender was, I’m lucky. Thanks to a fairly recent revelation, I can admit to my addiction. My name is Fay Jacobs and I’m a carboholic. And while I have been called a humorist a time or two, this is not really meant to be funny. Sure, I see humor in the situation, but really, this is pretty serious stuff.
Years ago, I wrote in this column about my battle of the bulge. “I’ve tried every diet ever invented and they all work. Scarsdale, Weight Watchers, the cantaloupe diet, you name it. I can lose lots of weight on all of them. Unfortunately, I don’t, because I invariably fall off the wagon and onto the buffet table.
The only real success I ever had was during the Phen-Fen diet pill craze. In three months I shed thirty five pounds, and a lifetime of guilt. It was terrific. But next thing I knew, doctors started shrieking that our heart valves were becoming applesauce and wham, the government confiscated my Phen-Fen. Luckily, the only permanent medical damage I suffered was blowing back up into a women’s world shopper.”
Honestly, I thought I was hopeless. Years ago, one sadistic doctor reported his diagnosis. “You have an overactive fork.” Hilarious bastard. But you know, it may have been true. And I worried about my health. Not to mention my health insurance rates. My body mass index was higher than my credit score.
Then, last summer, somebody suggested I might actually be addicted to carbs. I don’t mean overly fond of, I mean addicted. Physically, medically, Betty Ford-addicted. I had a habit. Compulsive is not too strong a term.
As I pondered the possibility of real dependence, I attempted to cut most carbs —bread, potatoes and fried foods, from my current diet, if you could call that kind of gluttony a diet. And I went cold turkey. Literally, because cold turkey was one of the few things I could still eat. And it was difficult, bordering on painful, confining myself to salads, meats, fish and veggies, surrounded, as we are, by buckets of beach fries and funnel cakes.
The first few days were a bitch and so was I. Grumpy R Us. It was really, really hard. I struggled. But as the days and weeks went by, honestly, it got easier. The further I got from pizza and pasta, the more appealing healthy eating became. If somebody told me a year ago I would ever happily pass up a club sandwich for a Caesar salad I would have called them delusional.
But here’s the real revelation. Over the past year, when I did relapse or treat myself to something verboten, I immediately wanted more of it, like some ravenous animal. Had a slice, craved a sandwich; ate the sandwich, wanted spaghetti. Really, really wanted it. I felt myself losing control, craving a dopamine high from French toast or French Dips. This addiction hypothesis was quickly becoming established fact.
So fast forward. After a little less than twelve months avoiding excess carbs I have lost 32 pounds. My spouse and friends have provided peer support and been champs for noticing my success and encouraging me. “I can see the weight loss in your face,” they all said. That’s because all 32 pounds came off my jowls. It will take another two years to come off my thighs. But it’s progress.
And I seem to be keeping the weight off. I’m writing this, not to congratulate myself, but to share what I consider to be this bizarre secret about carb addiction. Maybe some of our readers are addicted, too. And of course, in my feeble attempts at addiction metaphors, I mean no disrespect to my readers battling more traditionally discussed addictions of their own.
I’m also very lucky that this particular addiction only makes me burp and reach for the menu, rather than buying illegal substances or behaving badly towards people I love. But believe me, there are scary parallels.
So I’m in detox and on the wagon. I’m committed to getting the carbs out of my system again. And I’m sharing this with you at risk of having everybody watch what I eat from now on. Jeepers, I’m the restaurant writer for this magazine, for pity’s sake. Well, I’ll just have to taste only a bite or two from now on and hope I can stay clean.
May the proof be in the sugar-free pudding.
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir and Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach. Contact her at www.fayjacobs.com.