I love desserts, the sweeter, creamier, richer, or more chocolaty, the better. I prefer frosted cakes or cookies with a little something extra. Cookies should be chewy, but not crunchy, and accompanied by cold milk or hot coffee.
My mom was a good cook and I have a very early memory of her decorating a birthday cake for me when I was, perhaps four years old. What I remember about the cake was that the frosting was a satiny white, and she decorated it with a blue border and pink flowers. That was forevermore my favorite birthday cake. Her favorite cake was a white cake with white frosting and covered in coconut. Yum.
I don’t remember her making cookies very often, although I remember her delicate thin sugar cookies at Christmas time, cut out with the red plastic cookie cutters or aluminum cutters that were popular in the 1950’s (perhaps earlier). And she made chocolate and vanilla pinwheel cookies for Christmas as well. I make them too, on occasion, but they are a lot of work. I don’t remember her making any more varieties of Christmas cookies than that, or any large quantities.
My Aunt Millie on the other hand, when we visited her house at Christmas time, the top of her buffet was lined with trays and dishes filled with decorated cookies and chocolate candies, as well as a variety of mixed nuts and mints. I always admired the variety and quantity of the spread she put out. I never did succeed in copying that though, because in my house, the kids and I could eat up the cookies as fast as I could make them. So, there were never batches of anything to lovingly display.
My fascination (read: addiction) for chocolate chip cookies began at a neighbor’s house. Once my mom asked Linda if I could stay with them for a while. While I was there, Linda made chocolate chip cookies, the first I ever remember. Oddly, I don’t remember eating the cookies, but I do remember the making. I remember my first taste of creamed butter and sugar, before adding in the other ingredients, the look of the light brown cookie dough and the chocolate chips being poured from the bag into the bowl and stirred into the dough. I may have been marked for life at that point!
With that brief history of baking, it should come as no surprise that I have struggled with my weight most of my life. I don’t think I was fat in High School, but I probably had about 15 pounds over many of my classmates. My weight went up after my first marriage and I got what turned out to be some bad advice about using salt tablets when I lived in Florida.
If it wasn’t the salt tablets, it was probably mindless eating in response to stress. I did not understand at the time that cake was a poor substitute for coping mechanisms. Truth be told, cake was my coping mechanism. From high school forward, if things were tough, I would bake. But unless you can give the baking away, you eat what you made. One slice at a time.
I have successfully lost major weight (over 40 pounds) twice in the last 34 years, with minor skirmishes up and down the scale at other times. One loss was with a diet my doctor put me on 32 years ago, and then in 2007 I met my goal with Weight Watchers (Now WW). But each time I hit that magic number, I started back up the scale, like a swimmer who has reached one end of the pool and promptly pushes off in the other direction.
Don’t get lost in the forays into honesty, this post is not about diets, or weight loss programs, it is about cookies. Well, cookies and my next favorite treats, most carbs. Although, I started gaining some weight back soon after reaching my goal in 2007, I had still topped off by our move in 2009, to about a 14 pound gain, which I was able to maintain.
Seriously, I know that it is weight loss that one is supposed to maintain, but over the years I have had better success in maintaining the gains. I had to give up some of my favorite clothes to maintain that gain, but at least it had not all come back. While I was embarrassed bout the gain, I felt pretty good where I was and the clothes I was still able to wear. And then “it” happened.
Now, before I tell you what ‘it” was, let me be clear that I am not blaming my husband for the weight gain that followed in any way, and let me also tell you that he has been in remission, for four years now. But in the fall of 2015, he was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer that was classified as malignant, and our family doctor told me privately to “prepare myself.”
So began a season where he underwent immunotherapy, with treatment and side-effects that almost killed him, but thankfully did not; and I began a season of self-medicating with carbs. Cookies, bagels, bread, brownies, but especially cookies and bagels.
Now and then my husband would tell me, “you can eat just one cookie” especially when kind parishioners were gifting us with trays of Christmas cookies. But my cookies like to have friends; anything less than 2 feels like a travesty. Seriously, even on the package of your favorite sandwich cookie, it says that a serving is 2 cookies!
Stronger than the Cookie!
In a conversation with my daughter, sometime during that season, she said to me, “Mom, you are stronger than the cookie!” She is a wise young woman and has done a great job in fostering and encouraging physical activities in her children. She has also worked hard at her own physical condition and has a job that is physically demanding, in addition to being the working mother of three children under 7.
I took her advice and wrote those wise words in a piece of paper and hung them above my computer, “You are stronger than the cookie!” it read. But, not really. I did not put the sign back up after we moved. Still, I managed to maintain my weight at its upper level.
Then, COVID. We have all been on the same planet and world-wide have suffered many of the same struggles, I will not insult you by telling you mine. I will admit, in as forthright a manner possible, that only after things started returning to some normalcy, did the enormity of the amount of cookies and ice cream I managed to inhale during those long weeks dawn on me. Surprisingly, I did not gain weight, just, you know, maintained it.
On June 16th, or maybe the 15th, I was struck by a moment of clarity that amazingly enough, did not come in the form of a medical crisis. In that moment of clarity, I realized the potential disaster I was heading for, and decided to stop doing that to myself.
That simple, and that profound. I have not had a cookie, or a pair of cookies, or a store bought candy bar since June 16th. I have chosen to limit ice cream to a serving every week or every other week.
My biggest surprise in all of this has been that I could eat a regular meal and walk away from the table satisfied. I could go between meals and not be hungry. I have never been that!
I know that some people believe that sugar is addictive and some do not. I haven’t read studies, but I think that I have lived that addiction. This is not me pronouncing myself cured. Since June 16th I have been able to eat meals, and not be ravenously hungry in between. I have lived this cookie life reality for probably 65 years. While I am always happy to have people take the time to read and comment on my posts, I am not asking you to affirm or deny the facts of my confessed experience.
I would like to think that even if it is subtle, that reading the blogging friends who write about health, nutrition, physical fitness and running, have been an influence on my mindset. I appreciate them for it. I have been pretty honest that I am not now, nor have I ever been athletic, but still feel as though I fit in with the group.
I am confident and hopeful, that I can keep on keeping on. I can keep calm and skip the cookie.
And it may be that my daughter was right. With grace, it just may be that I am stronger than the cookie.
Not holding back the tide,
Copyright 2020 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com