Parenting Blog

Complicated Donuts And A Fat Boy

National Donut Day

Donuts and I have a long, complicated history.

Our story probably started before I can even remember. Maybe there was a happy, pudgy-faced young boy being driven to the local Dunkin’ Donuts on weekend mornings; his dad with the newspaper folded neatly under an arm, his mom with a cup of straight black coffee in her right hand and maybe an old fashion for dippin’ in her left, he with a freshly baked chocolate frosted cake doughnut on a small plate and two pints of 2% white milk. Those were probably happy days. I say probably because unfortunately, my actual first memory of donuts doesn’t come in that kind of Norman Rockwell glaze.

I know I’ve always loved donuts but my first honest recollection of eating donuts involves me in my Philadelphia apartment,┬áseated at a computer overlooking a busy street that’s just waking up from the party it hosted every weekend night. I was 19 years old and would have just returned from a walk to the convenience store a few blocks away. It would be the only physical activity I’d get on that or most any other day during this period of my life. I can picture myself buying a half gallon of milk, still 2% white, and a long rectangular white & blue variety box of Entenmann’s. In that box would have been 8 full sized donuts in all: 2 crumb, 2 chocolate, 2 glazed, 2 plain. I’d proceed to eat at least half of them and drink most of the milk. That’s nearly 70 grams of fat, nearly all of which are saturated, just from the donuts alone. It was not even 9 in the morning. There were additional meals and snacks, and more than a few bottles of soda still to come after my donut breakfast.

I’d do this a few times each week.

When I’d return home to visit my family, they could easily see that I was slowly killing myself. I was told that I needed to take better care of my body. I was told that it would only get harder to get in shape as I got older. I’ve always hated it when others are right about me.

I’ve just turned 40 and it’s a goddamn struggle to get fit out here in the suburbs where the idea of walking a few blocks is ridiculous thanks to streets and highways criss-crossing and sidewalks suddenly coming to dead-ends where the developers’ contractual commitments stop too. After years of half-started diets and more parental prodding to eat better (or at least, eat less), I gave up soda completely and, save for the occasional specialty one while traveling to places like the artisanal donut mecca of Portland Oregon, I have all but given up donuts too. This was six years ago and my health improved immediately. While I’m still clinically obese, it is obvious to look at me now compared to back then and see that something is dramatically different in my appearance. I am more of a streamlined human being, more proportional and less rotund, more capable of being physically active and, generally, much healthier thanks to wiggling through the hole in my donut addiction.

Donuts Day in San Francisco

Nowadays, when my daughters and I pop into a bakery and get wide-eyed upon seeing row upon row of cake, glazed, crumb, powdered and jelly-filled A.M. treats tempting our eyeballs and our bellies, or when I spy one of those white & blue variety boxes on a grocery store shelf while shopping alone after dropping them off at school, I pause to think about my old habits. I picture a younger, more foolish and significantly larger version of myself tearing into a box of donuts like it was nothing at all. In those moments, while standing still in bakeries and grocery store aisles, I can recall the emotional damage and the way I would immediately feel like a fat loser the moment I finally stopped eating, just as my belly began to catch up and realize what I’d done. I can still tap into what it was like to sit alone in a small bedroom, staring at a computer, devoid of a girlfriend and any social life worth mentioning, my fingers still sticky from the residue of my enormous donut breakfast. I hated myself for eating so many donuts, so often, but it would be years before I did anything to change my situation.

I work hard today to delicately albeit truthfully repackage my sad, but ultimately redemptive story, to my daughters so that they might learn about and understand the cause and effect of poor eating habits, and the pleasure and the pain that donuts brought their dad many years ago. Luckily, I’m able to enjoy a donut with them every once in a while without falling back into that crumb-caked abyss, an important skill when trying to model a balanced approach to life for a pair of impressionable children who might soon have to make their own choice about whether or not to buy a box of donuts and a half gallon of milk from their local convenience store.

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