Columns / Discourse / October 5, 2011

Musings on Life: Spelunking in the fat cave

I still remember my first day at the Hard Knox Café. It wasn’t significantly memorable, I admit, but it was a refreshingly different place (not for long though). It took me a while to realize that smoothies and stir-fry dishes existed, or that you needed to leave your bags at the entrance to prevent the illegal smuggling of food reserves for poor college students (but that’s another story).

As I proceeded towards the sunny area by the windows, a warm, entrancing, orange light beckoned to me. As I turned to stand before this enchanted room, the first thing I saw was cereal—varieties of breakfast cereal that seemed to go on and on, three types for every day of the week so that all you could have for breakfast, lunch and dinner was cereal. The rainbow colored ones particularly convinced me that I was dreaming—as an international student I had never seen anything like this before in a cafeteria.

I shifted my gaze to the right side of the room—there was a soft ice cream machine, and some toppings to choose from. Wait, there was the scoopable type too? Yes, and two different types of ice cream cones. At the end of the counter lay an assortment of cookies and cakes.

This “dessert room” became a sacred yet forbidden place for me at the same time, but I made it a point to enter as infrequently as possible. This was considerably hard, since I had to pass by it several times a day and I am a sucker for desserts.

There are a number of factors that could influence unreasonable visits—perhaps a sudden surge of creativity to combine cereal and ice cream and toppings into a single masterpiece, or ironically, to flirt with someone who just walked in. These visits could possibly be avoided if the dessert room actually had doors to prevent temptation.

Some fortunate people need not worry about overindulging. On the other hand, there are some people who have to. But fighting against the blatancy of the dessert room is not impossible. The key is awareness—to know how your actions will affect you. Once, while I strode nonchalantly into the cave, I found that if I looked straight ahead, at the end of the room there was this sort of mirror-like object. As I looked at my fine reflection, I contemplated—I could either happily indulge or walk away with dignity, it was my choice.

It’s also safer to venture towards what’s on the other side of the wall—there are these things called “fruits” that could possibly satisfy frequent cravings.

And of course, resisting temptation would be much harder if you completely deprive yourself of it and think about it night and day. Don’t do this to yourself. Although too much dessert is bad for obvious reasons, it’s always nice to have it once in a while to put a satisfying end to a meal. That way, you’ll less likely snack on something later on. Some people have this theory about how eating dessert first before you have your meal is healthy, but I still feel that needs more evidence.

It’s a matter of self-control. Here is a quote I liked from the author and journalist Judith Viorst, “Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands—and then eat just one of the pieces.”

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