running from bagels

everything bagels

Sheltered behind my cubicle walls, I heard her voice above the typing of keys, the slurping of coffee, the early morning chatter, as she agonized over a breakfast spread set up just outside a neighboring conference room.

As others came by, grabbing scones or muffins or fruit cups  or coffee–definitely coffee–she chatted them up. Hello’s and how-are-you’s and an occasional introduction.

But those little chats were just circles; they never ventured far from where they started. And they always came back to the bagels.

“I’m thinking about having a bagel,” she’d declare to no one in particular. “I ran this morning, so I think it’s okay.”

Minutes would go by. Others would come to stake their breakfast claim and again, she’d pipe up: “I already went for a run today, so I can probably have a bagel and it’ll be okay” or “Six miles is enough to cancel out a bagel, right?”

Part of me mentally smacked myself in the forehead each time I heard her seeking out justification for her food choice. We’re talking about a bagel for heaven’s sake, not deep-fried challah french toast. Not to mention it wasn’t even nine ‘o clock in the morning and the woman had already run half a half marathon.

Part of me wanted to stand up, peer my head over the wall of my cube and say, “YOU’RE GONNA BE FINE. EAT THE DAMN BAGEL ALREADY!!”

But part of me was all too familiar with the circuitous journey she was on. A roundabout road toward health and happiness and self-contentment with the occasional toll of sanity that must be paid along the way.

I’ve argued myself in and out of many a morning run, a tiramisu, and yes, even a fresh-baked bagel. I’ve measured out two tablespoons of hummus to accompany my carrots, just to make sure I didn’t accidentally overdo it. I’ve brought my own packed lunches to untrustworthy dinner parties, so I wouldn’t be trapped without a healthy option. I’ve sopped the grease off my pizza with a paper towel. I’ve had my fair share of low fat and no fat and low sugar and no taste.

I’ve fallen victim to the endless pinwheel of longing, indulging, guilt, and regret, and I’m acutely familiar with the same empty hole that waits in the middle . . . whether you eat the bagel, or you don’t.

Somehow, I found my way out of the loop. I’ve stopped running from bagels or running for bagels. I’ve stopped counting calories and fat grams and minutes until lunch.

But I still recognized the dread and doubt and indecision in that woman’s voice. And I hated every moment for her.

I’m not sure if she decided to eat that bagel or not. And really, it doesn’t matter. It would have plagued her either way.

I do hope one day she sees the justification she needs can’t come from her coworkers at the breakfast buffet. Or her husband. Or her children. Or parents. Or friends.

I hope one day she stops running in circles and makes peace with herself. And all the bagels she has yet to consume.

Photo credit: Pretzel Bread Bagels via Miss Munchie on Etsy


19 thoughts on “running from bagels

  1. Even if someone gave her “permission,” would she have taken them up on it? Actually, I’m surprised no one did. It never fails when I’m trying to eat healthy that someone will try to sabotage my efforts.


  2. she has to give herself permission and even if she did, she would feel guilty. i know this woman. i’ve been this woman. we all chase our tails a bit, i guess, until we figure out we deserve the bone. it’s a journey.


  3. Wow, your description of the woman made me feel really sad for her. I pray that she learns to love herself and accept herself, regardless of what she eats. Thanks for sharing. Like you, I felt irritated with the woman, while at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel sad for her.

    God bless you,


  4. As the mildly overweight person in an office full of target weight people I always found myself talking about my morning runs when I first switched into this job, almost to preemptively ward off any sideways glances at my food choices before I made them. Now? I grab the first damn bagel so I don’t end up with the salty one left at the bottom of the bag.

    I like this post, though, I remember strategically bringing my workout bag into the office when I could have left it in the car on days I went to our campus’s gym to workout at lunch, or when I pretended I wasn’t going to have a bagel when I knew damn well the second they showed up that I was going to have one, maybe two, before the end of the day. For me it was always making sure people knew I had good intentions, not necessarily the intensity of the intentions themselves.


    1. You bring up an excellent point. We live in a world that is so consumed with physical appearance that we feel it’s necessary to make it clear when we’re working out and hide what we’re eating. I (like you, it sounds) finally had to learn how to let it go and stop caring.
      Thanks for sharing!


  5. Ahh I’m going through this stage right now. It sucks! But I don’t know how to stop it. It comes and goes though so I just have to wait for it to pass.


  6. Love how you tell this story without going too deeply into your own; most bloggers would have fallen into that sinkhole and we would have ended up with a bloated post instead of a crisp, interesting scene. Excellent work!


  7. First, I totally want a bagel now and most definitely did not run 6 miles. I love that phrase “half of a half marathon.” I know people like this who say it for attention, so someone will congratulate them on their fitness, etc., and let them have the bagel. It’s sad to need validations from others in that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been there, too! That point in your life where you have to earn every piece of food you put in your mouth is depressing, but also addicting. I now cringe every time I hear things like this, because even though it’s one thing to eat healthy, it’s another thing to be a mental nightmare as a result. Great post!


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