Bread

After our long road trip, I had gained twelve pounds. And I had worked so hard for months to lose forty pounds. I had purchased new clothes, primarily pants. Now those pants would be very tight if they would fit at all. We had left Toronto with the best of intentions. We would not eat junk food. We would eat healthily. However, on a road trip, the gas stations where you stop for fuel or to use the washroom are not exactly oases for providing healthy food.

 
But that is really not the main reason that I had gained weight. Some people go on keto diets or high protein diets to lose weight. I just stopped – not all, but most of the time – eating bread. Friends could not believe that I lost all that weight by ceasing to eat bread. But it is true. I did not eat cake or pies either. But I ate plenty of fruit. Fruit is rich in fructose, a form of sugar. But I do not gain weight from eating fruit. In fact, my fruit intake increased as a substitute for bread and, nevertheless, I lost weight.

Perhaps that is peculiar to me. All my aunts and my mother told stories about my love of bread when I was a child. If I was the least irritable, they would give me a piece of challah (the egg bread served on shabat) and I would be content. In fact, that was how I learned to walk. Most infants learn to walk when they are from 10 to 14 months old. I was evidently almost eighteen months old and still did not walk. I was a very fat baby and infant. Finally, my aunts plotted together to teach me to walk. They would hold up a piece of challah in the centre of the room just above my head height. Crawling towards the challah only led to frustration rather than satisfaction since I could not reach the bread held aloft. And I was too fat to get up without leaning against a piece of furniture. So I sat on my fat ass and wept.

I gradually learned to use a chair to climb to a standing position and waddle a few steps towards the bread before I came crashing down. But I was determined. I would return to my original position, stand up with the help of the chair and take a few steps again to reach the bread. I failed and failed. That is the family lore And I would end up sitting on the floor and weeping. But my aunts were tough. No walkee, no breadee. Of course, I eventually made it and learned to walk. That is the family lore.

I learned to walk, but only by reinforcing my addiction to bread.


And it is an addiction. Unlike many people with addictions, I do not deny I have one. Each week I would take a dozen bagels and visit my grandchildren on Sunday morning. “What a good saba,” people would say. But the truth is that it was also an excuse to eat bagels. They might have one each. But I would eat at least two and sometimes three. And I could get away with it without any superego around to remind me of my addiction. In my case, reminding me that I should not eat so many bagels because my reminder cared deeply about me and my health was not how I experienced any helpful suggestion. My reminder certainly cared deeply about me and my well being but I experienced it as sabotage and unjust interference.  Instead, I would plot how to get my next bagel without being discovered. Reminding me out of love for my well-being was useless. I could not care. I always said that I was not bothered by their mentioning my addiction. And I did not mind. Because I knew how to calculate and get away with eating bagels without their knowing it – or so I believed.

Is that not a sign of an addiction? After all, an addiction is both a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical substance – nicotine, an opioid – or to stop the activity associated with taking in the drug, such as continuing to smoke. I needed to taste bread. I needed to chew on it. When I was on a strict regime of not eating bread in order to lose weight, I chewed on those plastic teeth cleaners. I would leave the remnant of those chewed plastic feathers all over the house, which just doubled the disgust at my picking my teeth in public. Which was worse, the original addiction or the substitute?


It is not as if I am addicted to all bread. I hate cardboard that calls itself bread or Wonder Bread that can be easily rolled up back to dough – unless it is toasted. I hate ersatz bagels. But seedy bread can be a substitute for real bread. But only a substitute. Real bread is challah. Real bread is a bagel. Real bread is a rye with kimmel, especially if you are going to eat a smoked meat or pastrami sandwich. Real bread is Russian black bread.

Eating challah and bagels and rye bread is an addiction, not simply because I have such a passion for eating those items. but because I do not place limits on my eating. Further, I know my eating such large amounts of bread is physically harmful. It is bad for my health. It is bad for my cholesterol level. It adds to the spread of the tire around my waste. Perhaps, worst of all, it is psychologically damaging, but more on that later.


Let me offer a few examples of my addiction. I would go to What’s a Bagel and get a dozen bagels, some with poppy seeds, some with kimmel and a few plain ones in case others wanted a bagel and preferred it plain. By the next morning, if my wife was lucky, there were three bagels left in the paper bag – or the plastic bag to retain the freshness of the bagels. After all, when I got home, I would have a bagel to reward my effort at going to the store. Well maybe two. And with butter and jam.

Then I would have a bagel and cheese as a snack. Then I might suggest that my wife not cook and that I would be satisfied with a sandwich. Or two. Then when I arose very early in the morning at say 3:00 a.m., I would need a bagel, sometimes two, to sustain me while I was writing. And then there was the bagel I would eat with my yogurt and berries in the morning. Or, if I had hot cereal, there was nothing like eating a bagel with Quaker Oats. My wife might declaim, “Who ever heard of eating bread and porridge together? But could I care that it was unheard of in her experience. It was intrinsic to mine.


And it is not just bagels or challah or rye bread with kimmel. My wife has taken to buying very healthy brown breads with lots of seeds in them and in limited quantities. Two nights ago, I woke up very early as I am wont to do. I had just had a dream of a large slice from that brown seedy loaf with butter and strawberry jam.  I got up and as soon as I was dressed, I did not go directly to my computer without passing “Go.” I went to the bread box, got out the loaf and sliced a large piece of bread. I put butter on it and when I could not find strawberry jam, I put on Saskatoon berry jam which we had purchased on our trip. The combination was delicious. Then I wiped up all the crumbs lest I leave a trace of my misdeed and washed my face. Only then did I go to my desk and write.


But there are other much worse examples. We were invited to eat at a friends’ house on Monday evening. There were five couples. The table was round. A baguette had been sliced up and placed on the table in a basket. Unfortunately, the basket was placed on the opposite half of the table.  As we got up to serve ourselves from the dinner that had been arranged as a buffet, I filled my plate and planned to go by the other side of the table to pick up a few slices of bread. Unfortunately, my way was blocked by other friends standing and talking before they sat down. Drats! Foiled again.

I took my assigned seat and waited for the basket of bread to be passed around. I waited. And I waited. Finally, I could not help myself and asked for the bread basket to be passed to me. Politely it was passed around and other diners took a slice each on the way. When it reached me and I saw that there was just enough for a slice each for the rest of the diners, I took only one slice and watched the basket move along the rest of the table to go back to its original position. Most of the rest of the table passed up the opportunity to take a slice. There were three slices remaining.

The basket sat there and sat there. No one had evidently thought of passing the basket around a second time. I kept eying the basket. Should I or should I not ask for the basket to be passed a second time? I waited. And I waited. Finally, I politely asked for the basket of bread and it was passed to me. As it came towards me, my beautiful lady friend sitting next to me helped herself to a slice. There were two slices left. I took one and then asked if anyone else wanted bread. My wife on the opposite side of the table perversely said that she might want a slice. Disappointed, I passed the basket to her, but she did not take a slice but sat the basket down in front of her.

I could hardly keep my eyes off that final slice. The conversation was very interesting as it skipped from topic to topic – the SNC Lavalin affair and the effect on the coming election, Trump’s latest embarrassing comment, the current situation in Israel and the plight of the Palestinians and topic after topic. I listened. I participated. But my mind was mostly on that last slice of bread and how to get it without betraying my total indifference to etiquette. It was not only or even the problem asking that the basket be passed a third time. I anticipated that my wife would intercept the basket and quietly take the slice herself even if she did not intend to eat it. She is very committed to my well-being. Finally, in desperation, I totally misbehaved, stood half up, reached across the table and took the last slice. I was too self-satisfied with my accomplishment that I ignored how anyone had reacted to this enormous breach in etiquette.

If these vignettes do not clearly convince you that I have an addiction, just remember that an addiction is not only a great dependence on getting and injecting the substance, but the inability to stop. There is substance dependence. It is a behavioural addiction as well, like gambling, an addiction so demanding that social mores will be set aside to fulfil the addiction. I am out of control. Eating bread not only causes problems with my weight and with my societal behaviour but with my sense that I am in charge, that I am in control.


So I go cold turkey. I swear off bread altogether. Since I cannot seem to eat limited amounts, I will eat none. We came up to the cottage and we deliberately did not stop at What a Bagel to stock up on bagels and challah and rye. And I was good for two days. But I broke down yesterday morning and ate that slice of nutty healthy brown bread with Saskatoon berry jam. Oh, and I must not forget that I had two slices the evening before as substitutes for hot dog buns.


Why don’t I go for treatment? If you can be treated for a heroin addiction or a gambling addiction or even a sex addiction, why could you not be treated for a bread addiction? I am sure you could. But when I went to look it up, not one therapist advertised that they treated bread addictions. Perhaps my problem is not an addiction at all but simply a misuse of bread, an excessive dependence and love of bagels and challah. After all, how can I say I am addicted if I can swear off eating bagels and challah for months at a time, enough time to lose forty pounds?


I am convinced it is an addiction because my inability to moderate my use has been long term, in fact, has been lifelong. I not only get a high from eating a bagel. I not only get euphoric. I feel a deep need to eat bagels. And, more significantly, I will consume bread secretly, in private and at all times of the day and night. Most importantly, when I go cold turkey, the suffering initially is almost unbearable. I have to keep my mind busy all the time, and even then, daydreams and night dreams interfere. And, finally, I can never get enough of too much.


I easily get out of control in order to get my dose of bread. I know eating for me is harmful, but it is so deeply ingrained as a habit that it takes an enormous effort to break the habit. Eating bread will distract me even from activity that I say I love the most, such as writing. Push comes to shove, in the end I would give up writing in order to have a bagel. Hence the need for a strict regime of confessing that I am a breadaholic and doing so publicly. Hence, the habit of telling jokes about my eating when my children remind me that I am eating too much bread.


Eating the quantities of bread that I do eat detrimentally affects my social relations, most seriously with members of my family. My recourse to secrecy makes it worse, but my weight gain gives me away every time. I will even cheat or take significant risks to get, what I believe and rationalize will be my last piece of bread. Of course, this very vow to get myself under control is part of my undoing, for if I just cheat to tear off a piece of bagel, why stop there? Why stop anywhere?


I stop cold turkey because the withdrawal symptoms, especially in the first three days, are so severe. I certainly get very irritable. My sunny disposition evaporates. But I do not know of an organization called Bread Anonymous. I have not heard of counseling being available for the problem. I do not know of any devices or drugs that can serve as substitutes. And I know that I have no way of preventing a relapse after I lose ten pounds. I think that this time I will try to lose 20-30 more pounds so I leave room for a relapse. But perhaps doing that will mean my undoing for I will simply go back to my old ways and regain all the weight that I lost.

The condition is chronic. I know it will take a long time to get it under control. However, I actually find it easier, except for the very beginning, to cut it out altogether rather than limit its use.


Bagels and challah and rye bread are surely the bread of affliction!

Bread

by

Howard Adelman

After our long road trip, I had gained twelve pounds. And I had worked so hard for months to lose forty pounds. I had purchased new clothes, primarily pants. Now those pants would be very tight if they would fit at all. We had left Toronto with the best of intentions. We would not eat junk food. We would eat healthily. However, on a road trip, the gas stations where you stop for fuel or to use the washroom are not exactly oases for providing healthy food. 

But that is really not the main reason that I had gained weight. Some people go on keto diets or high protein diets to lose weight. I just stopped – not all, but most of the time – eating bread. Friends could not believe that I lost all that weight by ceasing to eat bread. But it is true. I did not eat cake or pies either. But I ate plenty of fruit. Fruit is rich in fructose, a form of sugar. But I do not gain weight from eating fruit. In fact, my fruit intake increased as a substitute for bread and, nevertheless, I lost weight.

Perhaps that is peculiar to me. All my aunts and my mother told stories about my love of bread when I was a child. If I was the least irritable, they would give me a piece of challah (the egg bread served on shabat) and I would be content. In fact, that was how I learned to walk. Most infants learn to walk when they are from 10 to 14 months old. I was evidently almost eighteen months old and still did not walk. I was a very fat baby and infant. Finally, my aunts plotted together to teach me to walk. They would hold up a piece of challah in the centre of the room just above my head height. Crawling towards the challah only led to frustration rather than satisfaction since I could not reach the bread held aloft. And I was too fat to get up without leaning against a piece of furniture. So I sat on my fat ass and wept.

I gradually learned to use a chair to climb to a standing position and waddle a few steps towards the bread before I came crashing down. But I was determined. I would return to my original position, stand up with the help of the chair and take a few steps again to reach the bread. I failed and failed. That is the family lore And I would end up sitting on the floor and weeping. But my aunts were tough. No walkee, no breadee. Of course, I eventually made it and learned to walk.

I learned to walk, but only by reinforcing my addiction to bread. And it is an addiction. Unlike many people with addictions, I do not deny I have one. Each week I would take a dozen bagels and visit my grandchildren on Sunday morning. “What a good saba,” people would say. But the truth is that it was also an excuse to eat bagels. They might have one each. But I would eat at least two and sometimes three. And I could get away with it without any superego around to remind me of my addiction. In my case, reminding me that I should not eat so many bagels because my reminder cared deeply about me and my health was not how I experienced any helpful suggestion. Instead, I would plot how to get my next bagel without being discovered. Reminding me out of love for my well-being was useless. I could not care. I always said that I was not bothered by their mentioning my addiction. And I did not mind. Because I knew how to calculate and get away with eating bagels without their knowing it – or so I believed.

Is that not a sign of an addiction? After all, an addiction is both a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical substance – nicotine, an opioid – or to stop the activity associated with taking in the drug, such as continuing to smoke. I needed to taste bread. I needed to chew on it. When I was on a strict regime of not eating bread in order to lose weight, I chewed on those plastic teeth cleaners. I would leave the remnant of those chewed plastic feathers all over the house, which just doubled the disgust at my picking my teeth in public. Which was worse, the original addiction or the substitute?

It is not as if I am addicted to all bread. I hate cardboard that calls itself bread or Wonder Bread that can be easily rolled up back to dough – unless it is toasted. I hate ersatz bagels. But seedy bread can be a substitute for real bread. But only a substitute. Real bread is challah. Real bread is a bagel. Real bread is a rye with kimmel, especially if you are going to eat a smoked meat or pastrami sandwich.

Eating challah and bagels and rye bread is an addiction, not simply because I have such a passion for eating those items. but because I do not place limits on my eating. Further, I know my eating such large amounts of bread is physically harmful. It is bad for my health. It is bad for my cholesterol level. It adds to the spread of the tire around my waste. Perhaps, worst of all, it is psychologically damaging, but more on that later.

Let me offer a few examples of my addiction. I would go to What’s a Bagel and get a dozen bagels, some with poppy seeds, some with kimmel and a few plain ones in case others wanted a bagel and preferred it plain. By the next morning, my wife was lucky if there were three bagels left in the paper bag or the plastic bag to retain the freshness of the bagels. After all, when I got home, I would have a bagel to reward my effort at going to the store. Well maybe two. And with butter and jam. Then I would have a bagel and cheese as a snack. Then I might suggest that my wife not cook and that I would be satisfied with a sandwich. Or two. Then when I arose very early in the morning at say 3:00 a.m., I would need a bagel, sometimes two, to sustain me while I was writing. And then there was the bagel I would eat with my yogurt and berries in the morning. Or if I had hot cereal, there was nothing like eating a bagel with Quaker Oats. My wife might declaim, “Who ever heard of eating bread and porridge together? But could I care that it was unheard of in her experience. It was intrinsic to mine.

And it is not just bagels or challah or rye bread with kimmel. My wife has taken to buying very healthy brown breads with lots of seeds in them and in limited quantities. Two nights ago, I woke up very early as I am wont to do. I had just had a dream of a large slice from that brown seedy loaf with butter and strawberry jam.  I got up and as soon as I was dressed, I did not go directly to my computer without passing “Go.” I went to the bread box, got out the loaf and sliced a large piece of bread. I put butter on it and when I could not find strawberry jam, I put on Saskatoon berry jam which we had purchased on our trip. The combination was delicious. Then I wiped up all the crumbs lest I leave a trace of my misdeed and washed my face. Only then did I go to my desk and write.

But there other much worse examples. We were invited to eat at a friends’ house on Monday evening. There were five couples. The table was round. A baguette had been sliced up and placed on the table in a basket. Unfortunately, the basket was placed on the opposite half of the table.  As we got up to serve ourselves from the dinner that had been arranged as a buffet, I filled my plate and planned to go by the other side of the table to pick up a few slices of bread. Unfortunately, my way was blocked by other friends standing and talking before they sat down. Drats! Foiled again.

I took my assigned seat and waited for the basket of bread to be passed around. I waited. And I waited. Finally, I could not help myself and asked for the bread basket to be passed to me. Politely it was passed around and other diners took a slice each on the way. When it reached me and I saw that there was just enough for a slice each for the rest of the diners, I took only one slice and watched the basket move along the rest of the table to go back to its original position. Most of the rest of the table passed up the opportunity to take a slice. There were three slices remaining.

The basket sat there and sat there. No one had evidently thought of passing the basket around a second time. I kept eying the basket. Should I or should I not ask for the basket to be passed a second time? I waited. And I waited. Finally, I politely asked for the basket of bread and it was passed to me. As it came towards me, my beautiful lady friend sitting next to me helped herself to a slice. There were two slices left. I took one and then asked if anyone else wanted bread. My wife on the opposite side of the table perversely said that she might want a slice. Disappointed, I passed the basket to her, but she did not take a slice but sat the basket down in front of her.

I could hardly keep my eyes off that final slice. The conversation was very interesting as it skipped from topic to topic – the SNC Lavalin affair and the effect on the coming election, Trump’s latest embarrassing comment, the current situation in Israel and the plight of the Palestinians and topic after topic. I listened. I participated. But my mind was mostly on that last slice of bread and how to get it without betraying my total indifference to etiquette. It was not only or even the problem asking that the basket be passed a third time. I anticipated that my wife would intercept the basket and quietly take the slice herself even if she did not intend to eat it. She is very committed to my well-being. Finally, in desperation, I totally misbehaved, stood half up, reached across the table and took the last slice. I was too self-satisfied with my accomplishment that I ignored how anyone had reacted to this enormous breach in etiquette.

If these vignettes do not clearly convince you that I have an addiction, just remember that an addiction is not only a great dependence on getting and injecting the substance, but the inability to stop. There is substance dependence. It is a behavioural addiction as well, like gambling, an addiction so demanding that social mores will be set aside o fulfil the addiction. I am out of control. Eating bread not only causes problems with my weight and with my societal behaviour but with my sense that I am in charge, that I am in control.

So I go cold turkey. I swear off bread altogether. Since I cannot seem to eat limited amounts, I will eat none. We came up to the cottage and we deliberately did not stop at What a Bagel to stock up on bagels and challah and rye. And I was good for two days. But I broke down yesterday morning and ate that slice of nutty health brown bread with Saskatoon berry jam. Oh, and I must not forget that I had two slices the evening before as substitutes for hot dog buns.

Why don’t I go for treatment? If you can be treated for a heroin addiction or a gambling addiction or even a sex addiction, why could you not be treated for a bread addiction? I am sure you could. But when I went to look it up, not one therapist advertised that they treated bread addictions. Perhaps my problem is not an addiction at all but simply a misuse of bread, an excessive dependence and love of bagels and challah. After all, how can I say I am addicted if I can swear off eating bagels and challah for months at a time, enough time to lose forty pounds?

I am convinced it is an addiction because my inability to moderate my use has been long term, in fact, has been lifelong. I not only get a high from eating a bagel. I not only get euphoric. I feel a deep need to eat bagels. And, more significantly, I will consume bread secretly, in private and at all times of the day and night. Most importantly, when I go cold turkey, the suffering initially is almost unbearable. I have to keep my mind busy all the time, and even then, daydreams and night dreams interfere. And, finally, I can never get enough of too much.

I easily get out of control in order to get my dose of bread. I know eating for me is harmful, but it is so deeply ingrained as a habit that it takes an enormous effort to break the habit. Eating bread will distract me even from activity that I say I love the most, such as writing. Push comes to shove, in the end I would give up writing in order to have a bagel. Hence the need for a strict regime of confessing that I am a breadaholic and doing so publicly. Hence, the habit of telling jokes about my eating when my children remind me that I am eating too much bread.

Eating the quantities of bread that I do eat detrimentally affects my social relations, most seriously with members of my family. My recourse to secrecy makes it worse, but my weight gain gives me away every time. I will even cheat or take significant risks to get, what I believe and rationalize will be my last piece of bread. Of course, this very vow to get myself under control is part of my undoing, for if I just cheat to tear off a piece of bagel, why stop there? Why stop anywhere?

I stop cold turkey because the withdrawal symptoms, especially in the first three days, are so severe. I certainly get very irritable. My sunny disposition evaporates. But I do not know of an organization called Bread Anonymous. I have not heard of counseling being available for the problem. I do not know of any devices or drugs that can serve as substitutes. And I know that I have no way of preventing a relapse after I lose ten pounds. I think that this time I will try to lose 20-30 more pounds so I leave room for a relapse. But perhaps doing that will mean my undoing for I will simply go back to my old ways and regain all the weight that I lost.

The condition is chronic. I know it will take a long time to get it under control. However, I actually find it easier, except for the very beginning, to cut it out altogether rather than limit its use. 

Bagels and challah and rye bread are surely the bread of affliction!

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