Comfort food for the dieter’s soul

aaron_croppedMy name is Aaron and it has been four months since my last Holiday gas station cookie. This, of course, refers to the third cookie I ate that night, because they cost less if you buy three, and why wouldn’t you want to eat three? They are the greatest cookies ever made.

Sure, your mom’s cookies, or gourmet cookies, or cookies that didn’t emerge from a bulk heater in the back of a gas station are probably “better” on some “quantifiable scale.” The appeal of these cookies is the fact that, if cooked properly, they are really just warmed-over dough. And the dough is so laden with what I presume is corn syrup that it’s almost viscous. It’s the kind of dough you would spread onto a runway to buffer the hard landing of a 747 whose landing gear had failed, then placate passengers with a delicious treat when they slide down from the wreckage into the warm cookie welcome mat.

Last May my wife and I decided to reform our eating habits again; we had been letting a few too many Chinese buffets sneak into our world. What we chose to do wasn’t a diet, so much as a different way of thinking about food. That’s what you’re supposed to say when you’re on a diet, and that’s what I am saying.

I’ve lost weight and it’s not all bad. If I make good choices I get to make an ample number of bad choices in the form of occasional candy bars, Kraft macaroni & cheese dinners or cans of black olives. But the Holiday cookies are a bridge too far.

I went to the Holiday website to calculate the nutritional content of these cookies. Just one of them was roughly equivalent to one of the big naughty cheeseburgers at McDonalds. Three? Literally a day’s worth of food. And I’m not going to eat just one because THEY ARE CHEAPER IF YOU BUY THREE, and I rarely even remember eating the first one.

The challenge with food is so different than other vices. No one *has* to drink boilermakers with construction workers until 2 a.m., but you do have to eat *something* or you will *die.* They’ve run studies on this. And in America, where the least healthy food is often the cheapest and most available, it’s no wonder I’m not the only one trying to get back into old pants.

Everyone needs water, but everyone’s culture is built on food. It reflects where you live, what you do, what your parents teach you. Familiar foods are like familiar songs or the way the sunlight hits the windowsill in your childhood room. Comfort food is comfort enough, sometimes.

But I don’t lift transmissions or crank on wrenches like my dad and grandpa. I live too far from work to walk or bike. I’m a teacher who stands a lot, intermittently, and a writer who moves his fingers real fast, again, intermittently. Fact is, I’ll usually have to find my comfort somewhere other than food.

It’s like the old saying goes: All things in moderation. So far, so good. I feel better, look better and can fit things in my pockets again. I don’t obsess about food like at the beginning. Really, life is a big ol’ hug, so long as I’m not forced to go without Diet Coke for more than an hour (the tremors). Other than that, things are great.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and community college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio, where a version of this piece aired on a recent episode of “Between You and Me.”


  1. I just have to say… I’m trying to eat a little healthier too. Desk job instead of a field job has taken its toll in the last couple of years. Holiday cookies are probably the thing I miss most. Seriously, the reese’s pieces peanut butter cookie? I still have to have one every few months!

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