I’ve noticed recently that it takes extra effort to zip up my jeans.  My weight usually stays consistent, due to years of intentionally training my brain to identify both food and connect it with its calorie content, but …ya know… I’m only human….hills and valleys.

My last struggle with light, but extra poundage happened as a result of my discovery of White Cheddar Smart Popcorn.  The “Smart” meaning “low calorie.”  Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how “low” the number is on the nutrition facts if you eat it in unhealthily large portions.  The obsession was real.  Initially, I ate in moderation, daintily, but then I realized I could buy large bags of the popcorn in gas stations.  Traveling long distances daily for my job leaves me with few real options for food unless I want to gain weight in a hurry so I usually eat nothing or pick up the occasional bag of beef jerky (also low cal, but expensive, limiting my purchases).

Eating popcorn seemed to be a magical way to feed myself throughout the day that wouldn’t have me packing on the pounds or draining my wallet.  Seemed to be.  What I didn’t realize about having a trash can-sized bag of popcorn on my lap as I drove 30 miles across the state, was that it was alarmingly easy to eat the whole thing.  The first time I noticed the bag was halfway empty I was driving away from an appointment and 20 minutes into opening the bag.  I was shocked, also still hungry.   Luckily, hunger it was “Smart” and besides, I was stress.  I saved the remaining half for that afternoon as I drove home.

Then it happened again.  And again.  I started telling myself that it wasn’t actually “gross” or unsanitary how my sticky cheddar finger residue was all over my steering wheel, or that I was finding more and more popcorn kernels stuck in my teeth.

One day I ate two bags.  I told my boyfriend, out of guilt, that I ate a bag and a half.  That following weekend we went to a wedding, where I saw a photograph of myself for the first time in months.  The spell was broken.

Not long after, I found a new love.  “Did you know that ricotta cheese is basically just protein?”  My boyfriend was looking at his phone and commenting on my choice of appetizer.  I had just finished looking at the calorie content of what (I considered) was a wonderful cheese discovery, and was floored that it had less than half the weight of the hummus we shoveled nightly into our faces.

“Protein?  Really?”  He couldn’t see it from his screen, but my previous life flashed before my eyes.  My whole existence had been protein.  When I was modeling, my diet consisted of eggs, chicken and Franzia.  The Franzia may not have held any nutritional value, I’m still up in the air about it, but the birds I ate did, and I lost a significant amount of weight while feeling the best I have in my life.  When I lived solely with my dog I used to joke out loud to her that I was “half chicken.”  She thought it was funny.

“Protein….” I trailed off and dumped more into the bowl.  I topped off the mound of cheese with some white truffle oil, another obsession, and dipped a carrot into it.  The truffle was an undeniably selfish act, meant to play on my boyfriend’s aversion, and with that I secured this new snack as my own.

I’m now post-ricotta.  Consuming quantities large enough that they required a daily trip to the supermarket left me feeling… gluttonous.  Also I couldn’t fit into any of my pants.  Now I’m onto cream cheese.