It was a guilty habit, I’ll admit. It was probably one I needed to break. But last year during lunch, after eating my sandwich that I had brought from home, I walked into the cafeteria and purchased a cookie.
I don’t know the exact nutritional values of that cookie, but I doubt that it was healthy for me. I’m sure it had plenty of calories and a fair helping of fat inside it. But it was enjoyable. It was chewy and chocolaty and comfortably familiar. And believe it or not, I did not become morbidly obese as a result of my habit. I ate a fatty, caloric, sugary cookie every day, and managed not to gain 100 pounds.
However, the state of Connecticut seems to think that my feat was a rare exception, as new nutritional guidelines have been implemented in school cafeterias across the state to prevent obesity. While the idea is valiant, the outcome has been displeasing.
Our pizza slices are now smaller, the doughy crust now replaced by a brittle, multigrain one. The chips available for purchase are now all baked, with little salt to make them taste like something other than circular cardboard.
And to my dismay, my beloved cookies are gone, replaced by a smaller, harder, “healthier” cookie that closely resembles an enlarged banana chip.
The truth is, if I want to gain enormous amounts of weight, the school’s lack of full-fat cookies will not prevent me from doing so. Though these new foods are intended to help us make healthier choices, the reality is that by high school, most of us have already formed our eating habits, good or bad.
Taking away a chocolate chip cookie or a white flour pizza crust will not prevent us from eating those foods ever again, but instead just delay the inevitable for a few hours.
I know that if I really want to have a cookie with my lunch, I can bring one from home. I know that I will adjust to the harder pizza crust, and I suppose I can survive without the occasional bag of Lay’s. I have not lost my favorite foods forever, but I have lost a level of security. It was nice to know that in the middle of a really stressful day, I could sink my teeth into some chocolate for a brief sense of reassurance. Maybe it’s a few extra calories I don’t need.
Maybe I shouldn’t use food for comfort. But maybe, I should be allowed to make that choice for myself.
This is one in a series of “Notes from the Institution” columns by Ridgefield High School students.