Running. And thinking of “food.”

Can I make my own fig-jam-filled cookies? Cuz I won’t buy them.

I’m Kelly, and I am a junk food addict.

No, seriously. I really am.

You will not find cans of pressed-potato-flake chips, bags of cheese-flavored tortilla chips, or boxes of pink-and-white-sprinkle-coated animal cookies in my cupboards. The reason is simple: if I buy it, I will eat it. In decidedly immoderate quantities. For snacks. And in the place of actual meals. Because dang, that stuff tastes GOOD!

There was a time, about a decade ago, when I weighed a full thirty pounds more than I do today. Some of that is lost muscle mass – my swimmer shoulders were hefty, and I now have cyclist arms – but a lot of it is from changing the contents of my kitchen cabinets, and altering my food-buying habits. (Okay…and spending twenty hours a week working out definitely contributed to weight loss.)

I was thinking about food this morning just past the crack of dawn, as I was running on the treadmill (yes, I said running – more on that next time). Actually, I was daydreaming about breakfast. And comparing the Kelly of today with the Kelly of ten years ago.

Ten years ago, I would have been happy with a uber-sweet pastry and full-fat mochacchinolatte (extra gianormous, please and of course I’ll have whip cream). My taste buds danced at the idea of those, but the rest of me – the rational decider part – had no desire to acquire or ingest either of those things. In fact, it kind of made my stomach do angry flips and I had to find something else to think about in order to keep running.

Wow, what happened to the old Kelly? (And, by the way, why was this new version running?!)

I’m not going to tell the whole dietary conversion story…it’s long and incremental. But the essence – the beginning – contains the ultimate answer where my old diet went and why.

Approximately, ten years ago, in one of my shirking-off/procrastination hours at work, I read a news story about a health study that had found a correlation between high fructose corn syrup and some horrible health condition I knew I didn’t want. (I don’t even remember what that first study was looking at exactly.) Based on that one article, I decided to make a single rule about what I would eat. Or rather what I wouldn’t eat. I decided to cut high fructose corn syrup out of my diet.

The food landscape was different then. Consumers, on the whole, weren’t reading labels yet, and companies hadn’t altered their formulas to use alternate sweeteners, so in creating that single dietary rule, I eliminated entire aisles (actually…pretty much ALL aisles) of the super-mega-chain grocery store near my apartment.

That was the beginning of the end for the junk food addict in me. Luckily, as I battled withdrawals and cravings (not always successfully) I accidentally discovered that I am allergic (mildly, anyway) to high fructose corn syrup. That sped my conversion and gave added incentive to decide every day that I would eat minimally-processed foods.

It’s a slippery slope, and I’m not perfect (Dear Clif Bar, I am responsible for that jump you saw in Bay Area sales…) and I’ve had many relapses. (Damn you pita chips for coming in giant bags at Costco! And why can’t they make those stupid little fish crackers taste more like actual fish and less like cheesy-deliciousness?) But, like working out, “what will I eat?” is a decision I have come to make very consciously.

How will I power this elite athlete? Increasingly, the answer has become: with food. Real food.

I am Kelly. And I am a junk food addict, in recovery.

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