Snack Less, Share More

There was once a time when I dabbled in dieting.

After quitting competitive swimming halfway through my senior year of high school, my body began to change. Once incredibly muscular and incredibly lean, it took on a different shape as my competitive swimmer eating habits remained the same. I was naive. I still ate all of the cookies in the cookie jar. I consumed multiple bowls of cereal for breakfast, bagels with butter for snack, cheese quesadillas and sweet potato pie for school lunch but never attempted to exercise to offset my extraordinary caloric intake. After years of training with a coach and a team, let’s just say that, quite literally, I was a fish out of the water — I barely knew how to keep fit on my own.

And I reaped the consequences. The eat-anything-and-everything trend continued throughout my freshman year in college, where all-you-can-eat buffets with hefty dessert selections merely encouraged consumption. By the end of my sophomore year, I was heavier than I had ever been, my old clothes didn’t fit right, and my weak muscles begged and ached to be used. I needed a lifestyle change.

Unfortunately, at the time, I only knew as much about health and nutrition as I had been required to know for grade school health classes. I knew the food groups. I kind of knew how to read a Nutrition Facts label. I knew that green vegetables are supposed to be good for me and cookies are not. But the one thing that turned out to be more useful than anything else I knew was this simple USDA-run program that helps people track their food intake online. When I signed up for the service in health class I didn’t imagine that I’d ever access it again — but there I was, cookies in hand, looking to revamp my diet. MyPyramid Tracker, as it’s called, helped me plan my meals in advance with adequate and recommended portions of each food group, it counted calories, it assessed my physical fitness, and it eventually helped me lose weight. I didn’t need to go on a crazy-restrictive fad diet. I ate carbs. I ate cookies. I still lost weight.

To be fair, I didn’t eat many cookies. I just baked a lot of them. And although the smell of browning butter, caramelizing sugar, and chocolate always lingered in my dorm room, my online food journal motivated me to eat not three cookies per day, but just one cookie every few days or less. The fewer cookies I ate, the less I craved, the more shared with my roommates, hallmates, house guests, and coworkers. My friends certainly received the sweeter end of the dieting deal.

I encourage smart weight loss, not quick fixes and magic bullets. With some commitment and self control, a cookie that is dangerously deemed a “snacking” cookie (like Baked’s Cream Cheese Chocolate Snacking Cookie) can be enjoyed. For the dieter, it’s a special sometimes snack and for the rest, it’s to share.