I never really got into giving things up for Lent. I remember a lot of my high school classmates did — forgoing candy, pop or swearing for 40 days. I do remember one year I gave up translating Latin homework at home, which if you knew me in high school, was a really bizarre resolution since I was a model student. I think I did it for the challenge — I never showed up to class unprepared, I just made sure I did my translations during free periods or before or after school. It was nothing compared to giving up sweets, something I tried to do for a day last month and thought I was going to die. Yes, I’ve really fallen off the health food wagon since my visit back to the US, and it’s been hard to climb back on. I haven’t been eating many cakes, cookies or candies like I did in America, but I have a new weakness:
This is my collection (The PB2 and The Bee’s Knees I smuggled from the US). Two years ago the term “nut butter” was foreign to me — I had a jar of cheap store brand peanut butter and that was it. But somehow over the years I have become a nut butter snob and connoisseur, and that same jar I used to savor now tastes like peanut-flavored sugar oil to me. Once you try the real stuff — just roasted nuts blended, maybe with some salt — it’s hard to go back. I started collecting nut butters when they went on sale, eager to try different nuts and flavors, telling myself that nut butter is good for me — healthy fats and protein! I’d put a scoop on my oatmeal, dip some fruit or add it to smoothies. Except it evolved to a point where I couldn’t just put a scoop on my oatmeal or spread some on apple slices — I had to repeatedly spoon it from jar to mouth afterward. One tablespoon of nut butter provides healthy fats and protein. Ten consecutive tablespoons of nut butter in your mouth just makes you fat. I realized I truly had an addiction when I found myself shoveling Nutella into my mouth one night when I was sick last week. I could not even taste it! I wasn’t even hungry! I was just doing it out of habit. That’s when it hit me that I wasn’t just jokingly “addicted” to Nutella — I really was.
I’m not going to give up nut butter cold turkey for Lent — that would almost be too easy. The real struggle is in moderation — scooping out one tablespoon and then putting the jar away, no matter how much the crave tells you to get it back out. That’s what I’m going to try to do — not just for 40 days, but for the foreseeable future. All my running is basically fruitless when I come home and eat 1,000 calories in spread. And when my current jar of Nutella runs out, I’m not buying any more. Almond, hazelnut and peanut butters provide real nutrition, but I’m pretty sure Nutella is just sugar and oil — delicious, chocolate-hazelnutty sugar oil. It’s a treat to buy when it’s on sale for Pancake Day, not a dietary staple.
I think the last scene of the South Park episode S09E14 “Bloody Mary,” in which Stan’s dad Randy spends the whole episode believing he’s a powerless alcoholic unless the bleeding statue of Mary can cure him, says it best:
Randy: Maybe I can force myself to never drink again.
Stan: No! Dad, you like to drink. So have a drink once in a while! Have two! If you devote your whole life to completely avoiding something you like, then that thing still controls your life and you’ve never learned any discipline at all.
Randy: But maybe I’m just the kind of person who needs to have it all or nothing.
Stan: Naw, all or nothing is easy. But learning to drink a little bit, responsibly, that’s discipline. Discipline come from within.