Lost in Translation

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Kathleen Wilbur

Over Spring Break, I went to Disney World with three of my best friends and while I was there, I fell into a real, deep and intense love.

With cream cheese pretzels.

As you read this, you may be thinking “But Kath, a cream cheese pretzel? What’s so great about that?” And I’m here to tell you: everything. Everything is so great about that.

I could go on for hours about the wonders of cream cheese pretzels, but I’ll sum it up with just a few facts about my new soulmate. Cream cheese pretzels, like many delicious treats in Disney, are unique to Disney Parks and Disney Parks alone. And cream cheese pretzels, like many delicious treats in Disney, are out-of-this-world, borderline-addictive (like maybe you should book a trip for them alone) good. So as you can imagine, it’s easy to get a bit caught up in the savory flavors of the treats and eat…well, a few too many.

After my five-day love affair sadly ended, I flew back to Massachusetts with a full belly and a few extra pounds under my Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. And while I came down from my cream cheese pretzel high-, I realized that maybe it was time for the dreaded “d” word—the one I’ve wrestled with (and lost to) so many times—to reemerge just in time for swimsuit season.

Diet.

Almost as a reflex, my thumbs immediately keyed my passcode into my iPhone and clicked on the App store—I always download the “My Fitness Pal” app when I want to slim down. But something made me hesitate, and in my hesitation, I realized a truth that’s been a long time coming:

“My Fitness Pal” is no pal at all.

The app requires users to plug in their current weight, their goal weight and the average amount of exercise they do per week. It then allots you a certain amount of daily calories and asks you to log every bit of food that enters your mouth. When you hit zero, you’re not supposed to eat until your calories are renewed the next day (although you can earn calories back by logging exercise). The last time I used it, My Fitness “Pal” allotted me only 1200 calories a day.

1200.

I’m no nutritionist, but in hindsight, I’m pretty sure 1200 calories are definitely not enough for a whole day. I mean a cream cheese pretzel is probably 1200 calories all by itself, and who can eat just one of those?

But regardless of the number of daily calories, the act of counting, subtracting, adding and bargaining them is what made me become obsessive. I needed to log my every snack and my every sit up. I even got into the mindset that ending the day in negative calories meant I had “won” the sick game that the app lures you into playing if you’re not careful.

This being said, when done correctly, calorie counting isn’t the worst thing in the world. Although obsessive behavior is never good, in an age of American overindulgence, we could all probably afford to keep track of our diets a little. And it does work—the summer that “My Fitness Pal” was more like “My Fitness Best Friend,” I lost 13 pounds.

So as I paused in my quest to redownload the app that has egged on so many of my body image issues, I thought of the words of Best Supporting Actress Winner Lupita NYong’o that I heard in a video on upworthy.com just a few weeks ago.

You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.

NYong’o went on to explain that beauty is not a thing we can “acquire or consume”—we simply have to be beauty.

You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.

Lately, I’ve been trying to get into the practice of doing myself favors. These favors started with the decision to delete My Fitness Enemy and continued when I decided to leave it that way—out of sight, out of (obsessive) mind. I can’t eat beauty, but slowly, with some self-love and a different diet app, I can learn that being beauty is enough. I can remember the other part of Nyong’o’s speech, the part where she explained that “what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”

I can’t eat beauty. It won’t feed me. But cream cheese pretzels sure will, and I don’t think our love story is quite over yet.

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