Domino’s has this special: two medium two-topping pizzas for $5.99 each, although you can swap one of them out for another item, and I usually do. Boneless wings topped with mozzarella and, you’d better believe it, bacon.
It’s the kind of meal that should be divided among three starving people, but I handle it easily on my own. Disturbingly easily.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware that a 48-year-old should not be eating approximately 3 million calories worth of carbs, fat and salt in one abominable sitting. And so is my girlfriend. (“You eat that?” is just part of our everyday banter.)
She’s not a health nut, just a full-grown woman who eats her greens and even seems to enjoy the experience. She has what must be the superhuman willpower to make a pint of ice cream last in her freezer for more than half an hour.
The challenge? Eating my beloved poison while somehow keeping the peace with someone who has the absolute nerve to try to keep me away from diabetes. Here’s how I approached it:
STEP 1: Strategic compromise
If this was my hill to die on—and, given the food in question, it probably will be—then I wanted to reward her for indulging me.
If she'd permit this one ridiculous thing, if she was willing to allow me to be a toddler on my plate, I would follow through on a number of pledges.
The first were, not surprisingly, nutritional in nature: occasional concessions to salads or vegetable sides (a compromise I insisted upon since both at a single meal seemed excessive).
I am more than happy to make a little display of eating spinach salad if I know there’s something destructive waiting for me when the ordeal is over with. Do I want steamed asparagus? Never. But I can soldier through a couple of spears if it paves the way for a thick hamburger and some au gratin potatoes out of a box.
But that wasn’t all. If I was going to stop hearing about the ordeal of watching me “eat out of a trash can like a raccoon,” I had still more to give:
- Full ownership of litter box maintenance.
- Actually folding laundry, not just separating it into piles.
- Watching anything with her on TV that she wanted, an absolutely predatory request I felt was ripe for abuse (endless period dramas) and that I successfully negotiated down to less basketball in her life.
STEP 2: Sweat equity
You’d probably be surprised to learn that for all my love of Orange Chicken—which, if you don’t know, consists of assorted fried poultry lumps engulfed in a kind of citrus coagulate—I actually do exercise. Running, weights, yoga, I’m somehow able to do it all, even with a pint of high-fructose corn syrup gumming up my veins.
And I promised to keep it up: 13,000 steps a day or the equivalent. If I slack, away go my garbage food privileges, and the badgering about dropping dead before I’m 50 is back with a vengeance.
STEP 3: Proof of life
No, definitely not nutritional data. The worst thing I could do would be to engage my girlfriend armed with the ingredients of the store-brand Fudge Stripes knockoffs I like so much.
I’m talking about personal medical data. So far, my body has mostly resisted my attempts to annihilate it Pringle by Pringle. My cholesterol is good, and my doctor literally said he envied my blood pressure.
I showed my girlfriend the numbers, which astonished her (and me) and provided me with the leverage I needed to push our arrangement over the finish line. But now that I’ve got those numbers, I’m obliged to maintain them. If I ever get some unhappy triglyceride news, I can kiss my microwave egg rolls goodbye.
In the end, I call this a victory for me. Although I’m not quite sure she sees it that way. I overheard her talking to one of her friends the other day. She’d gotten me to do all these things, she snickered, and I still had no idea how much chocolate she ate.