This Is My Brain On Cheese

It started Friday evening with a grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat and ended last night with a Twix bar in bed watching The Good Wife. Yup. I fell off the no-dairy wagon. I fell mightily.

I’d been off of dairy and eggs for a little over 2 months. The first few weeks were rough, I hadn’t been “clean” in a while, but after that it wasn’t bad. I bought a new cookbook and experimented with a few new things like seitan (pronounced like Paula Dean might say Satan). I was feeling pretty good, getting in the groove, and then about a week ago I started craving cheese. Mainly pizza, but other forms too. So Friday night, after everyone else in the house had a grilled cheese sandwich, I broke down and made myself one–with real cheese.

It went from bad to worse. I wound up sitting at a Panera Bread for a 4 hour stretch on Saturday (long story). During this time I wrote, read, surfed the web, eavesdropped and had a large helping of their macaroni and cheese. I swear they put crack in that shit. It is friggin’ amazing. My taste buds went insane. I wanted more. I pictured myself selling everything I had on me, my netbook, my cell phone, my 16-year-old’s paperback copy of The Language of Flowers, my BJ’s membership card, my Lamy fountain pen, my wedding ring, my contact lens solution. I might have written the term paper for the college kid I was near or let the creepy guy spilling coffee and talking to himself sit next to me and cop a feel. I’d wind up sitting in the middle of the mall, mac and cheese smeared across my face, empty Panera containers piled around me like bedding, eyes glazed, hands shaking, saying things like, please Dude, and com’ on Man.

Once you’ve had cheese, why not other things with milk? That’s right, like Halloween candy. Now there’s a bottomless pit of an addiction if ever there was one. A few Lindt balls here, a Kit Kat there. Oh yeah. Mama’s back.

They say if you do something for 21 days it’s a habit and you won’t want to break it. That’s what this guy says anyway–and he teaches at Harvard so he must know what he’s talking about. His name is Shawn Anchor and I saw him on PBS in the midst of my setback. I think he had some really interesting things to say and I am secretly (actually not so secretly) fascinated by neuropsychology. After listening to him I can say with certainty that he’s never had to battle a cheese craving. However, he talked about seven little tricks he’s devised through his research to get you to happy. I liked the one that encourages you to take 2 minutes every day and write a few sentences to someone in your social network. You do this for 21 days (of course) and it helps you feel more connected and I suppose ultimately, more happy. You can’t just do a Facebook post about visiting a pet store or drinking martinis with your ex. You have to make it personal, to someone you care about. You have to individualize it, let it take you back to that place that connects you and this friend in the first place.

I miss a lot of friends. I wish we could have tea together, take a walk, listen to street musicians in Harvard Square, watch an old movie, gossip, grab a bite at Flour or La Paloma or Nick’s, solve the world’s problems, talk about writing and books, laugh until it hurts.

I’m one day dairy free. I’m working on connection. I’m blogging because I need to. Maybe it will keep me out of the mall.  Maybe it will get a few neurons firing in the direction of my novel. Maybe it will connect me to some new friends. Maybe it’ll make somebody smile, which this guy Shawn says, eventually, will make somebody happy.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “This Is My Brain On Cheese

  1. I’ve been craving soup all day, but now you’ve made me crave cheese as well! I don’t think I can ever quit diary products. Chocolate is my absolute favourte thing to eat and I can’t go a single day without having any. I went on a self-imposed chocolate ban for a week and ended up eating everything in sight after that, so I more or less understand what you went through!

  2. WSW

    I was three weeks on the sugar wagon when I heard the siren song of the Kit Kat bar, so I know what you’re talking about, sister. According to the very expensive and extremely unpleasant nutritionist I’m consulting, cravings can be eliminated with frequent meals that include lean protein and good fats, so that you never get to that crash-y starving low blood sugar moment. It seems to work, though let’s be honest, there is nothing like mac and cheese.

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