The Anti-Diet Project: Last Supper Syndrome

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bagelfriday1Photographed by Ruby Yeh.
Not-so-humble brag: My job is pretty sweet. My office is pretty, my colleagues are smart, and for some reason they let me come to work and write about things like teenage-incest movies and weird stuff that Weather.com is doing. There's not a lot I can complain about...but, I guess I will, anyway. One of the greatest luxuries of working at Refinery29 is Bagel Fridays. The holiest of days in R29 culture, staffers come to work to find our kitchen laid out with bagels and schmear galore. We herd around the counter clawing at the goods like a pack of drug fiends and then settle into a morning of work-sanctioned carbohydrate bliss. Or rather, I do. Or, I did.

One of the most insidious symptoms of long-term diet mentality is Last Supper Syndrome. It's that particular anxiety and rush you get when you're given the opportunity to eat a forbidden food. It's the voice in your head that screams for ALL THE CAKE when you're caught off guard with an office birthday. It's what sets you on a French-fry binge at a McDonald's during a road trip when you aren't even hungry. For me, it's what gets me to the office 15 minutes ahead of schedule every Friday, desperate to claim my sesame seed bagel before they're all gone and my entire life is destroyed, forever and ever and ever.

To be clear: I live in New York City. I can get a bagel, oh, anywhere. I can get virtually any food I could possibly want at any time of day. I work in downtown Manhattan and live in North Brooklyn. In my entire waking life, I am never more than five blocks away from an artisanal salted-butterscotch cookie. So, the fact that I speed walk to the subway on Fridays, panicked over whether or not I will make it before all the bagels are gone (Note: The bagels are never gone.), is just further proof that years of dieting have made me banana pants.

It's a simple equation: My body is used to the cycle of deprivation and indulgence, and my mind is riddled with food insecurity. Since I've spent my whole life teaching myself that bagels are The Untouchable Carb, it's no wonder I act like a maniac when faced with a kitchen full of them. On a "normal" day, eating a bagel would never even occur to me. I have my breakfast blinders on, and life revolves around high-fiber, low-fat, and all the things I absolutely would not want to eat.

But, Fridays were a different story. On Fridays, I didn't really have a choice, did I? The bagels were there, so free and so bountiful. More importantly, everyone was eating them, so, it must be okay, right? This was an opportunity I could not miss. I had to take advantage and stock up, for who knows what could happen tomorrow? I could be hit by a bus never having tasted that last processed carbohydrate. Or, more likely, as my traumatized appetite knew — I could just go back to my normal, bagel-less existence.

bagelfriday2Photographed by Ruby Yeh.
This is one lesson that takes a lot of practice to learn. When I committed to Intuitive Eating, I was ready to let go of my bagel neurosis. "You know you can have a bagel on Tuesday, if you want one, right," my Intuitive Eating specialist Theresa Kinsella asked me in one of our early sessions.

"I mean...yeah?" I mean, no.

"And, you don't have to have one on Friday if you don't want one."

"Oh, I know." ARE YOU A F*CKING MANIAC?

It took about 500 iterations of this conversation before I really, really, really got it. And, then one morning I left the gym and realized I wanted a bagel — on a Tuesday. It was such a shock that I literally stopped walking in the middle of the sidewalk.

Are you sure you really want a bagel? Actually, I am.

But, but, where would you even get one??? Don't pull that one on me.

I'll save you the epic tale of my half-block journey to find a sesame-seed bagel, but five minutes later I was at my desk enjoying breakfast like nothing had happened. But, in fact, I'd just beaten Last Supper Bagel-Friday Syndrome. Or at least, I'd won this round. The next challenge would come three days later.

Friday rolled around, and again, I paused on my gym-to-work walk, asking myself what I wanted for breakfast (still a novel experience for a lifelong dieter). But, before I could even figure out what I did want, I was nearly knocked over by the realization of what I didn't. I didn't want a bagel. Now, who's the f*cking maniac?

How can you do this to me?! I'm just not really in the mood. It sounds too heavy this morning.

But, everyone else will be eating bagels and you will be left out and miserable and then maybe bagels will be abolished tomorrow, YOU DON'T KNOW! Okay, you need a time out. Let's talk after we've had some eggs.

It wasn't an instant fix. I still have the bagel battle in my brain from time to time. There are some foods that are so engrained as Good or Evil in my diet-addled mind that it takes a level of hyperconsciousness to really determine whether or not I want to eat them. Until now, it wasn't about wanting the food so much as what the food "meant." But, bagels don't mean anything. They mean flour and water and sesame seeds. And, that's it. As long as I remember that, then Bagel Friday won't win. As it turns out, it was never a war to begin with. Or, maybe there was, but only in my head — and, I'm not that f*cking maniac, anymore.


Next week, The Anti-Diet Project returns to its regular schedule of every other Monday (the next update will be on 2/3). Until then, you can follow my progress at @mskelseymiller or #antidietproject on Instagram and Twitter — and join in! Show us your sweaty gym selfies, panic-free bagels, and all your anti-diet inspiration!