Someday they’ll make separate menus for all the things we deny ourselves. Not just carbohydrates or whatever the South Beach diet bans, but substitutes for coffee, cigarettes, meat on Fridays, fish on Mondays, and expensive shoes. If it’s not a diet, it’s a phone call, a new laptop, a real relationship: We’re constantly denying ourselves one thing or another in the pursuit of health, beauty, or—in the interest of mastering of our own willpower—just because we can. For a month or so, anyway.
I’m a New England-clam-chowder, beef-with-vegetable, Scotch-broth kinda gal. On a wintry or rainy day, I want soup, warm and full of healthy vegetables. But these days it’s off my list entirely, because in addition to the carrots and corn and clams and broth, there’s also an astonishing amount of salt lurking in each bowl. Companies that make soups and stews add it to amp the taste; depending which brand you buy at the store or where you’re having your lunch, a bowl of soup can have more than half your daily recommended intake of sodium. Even the low-sodium brands still have way too much of the stuff. And because I don’t want my kidneys to collapse, I’m swearing it off. —Kate Schlegel
I’m denying myself meat, because in addition to clogging my arteries and weighing me down, the production price is too high, what with waste lagoons, global-warming cow farts, and the huge footprint of all that grain feed; bottled water, because most of the time it’s no better than tap, yet as plastic is forever, it’s much worse for the environment; most clothes, shoes, and jewelry, because other than weighing on the wallet during these “R”-word times, they are chemically produced, sweatshop-made and waste- and pollutant-generating (but let’s be clear: I am perfectly happy judiciously indulging in organic cotton, bamboo, lyocell, and modal eco-chic pieces). So while “denying” myself, I am saving money, losing weight, getting healthier, and on my way to looking smashing. Who says you have to sacrifice for the environment? —TMN reader Jeanie Pyun
First, Peanut M&Ms, every afternoon. Hard to eat candy in front of the children and not give them any. And I don’t want them to grow up wanting to eat candy every afternoon.
Second, a gym membership. Yes, really. Good health should come from living an active life, my father always told me. And not eating candy every afternoon.
Third, a new computer. I’m going to sell a book before I get one, damn it. And if the current one dies and I have to finish the book on parchment paper, I don’t care.
Fourth, London. I’d move back tomorrow, if I could. —Jessica Francis Kane
With complete disregard for the laws of thermodynamics, my body tends to expand in cold temperatures. I came out of this winter with a thick ring of flesh sitting just above my waist, like a second ass waiting to drop into place should my primary ass give up. Since my relationship with physical fitness is very on-again, off-again, and I will probably only give up cheese and refined sugar when some kind of medical condition necessitates it, I’ve decided to deprive myself of the one thing I can take (a lot of, regularly) or leave: alcohol. I like to drink, but I don’t need it the way I need pizza or Tootsie Rolls, and previous experiments in Teetotalism has shown remarkable results. Plus, I kind of like going to bars and ordering a club soda with lime because I think it makes it look like I’m recovering from a serious drinking problem, which is a bit cooler than having a serious drinking problem. And much cooler than having a second ass. —Todd Levin
Until I clean out the storage space I’ve had for over 10 years—ever since moving out of L.A. for what may have been the last time—I’ve decided to deny myself a smart phone. Why? Because they’re not smart enough. The servers don’t serve as promised, and because cell phone manufacturers produce phones that are completely retarded, I cannot see spending all that money on one or being locked into using it for two years. The devices have this and this, but they don’t have that. It’s a frustrating and losing game. A need has been created, but in trying to get the thing satisfied, only cognitive dissonance is achieved. It’s horrible! —TMN reader William Neal
Right now I’m denying myself Mexican food. Black beans and rice, sopes and guajillo sauce, serranos, tamales, jalapeño escabeche. And why this hell, why now? I am denying myself Mexican food because I choose live in Paris, France, and there isn’t a single good Mexican restaurant in Paris. (I’ve tried them all! They’re Chili’s at best!) When guests visit us, they have standing orders to pick up a bottle of Cazadores tequila at the duty-free shop at JFK. Thank my gravy I’m going to Texas this summer. —Rosecrans Baldwin
I am giving up factory-raised meat and becoming an ethical vegetarian. It’s hard, though. How can I tell if my cheese came from humanely treated cows? How can I tell if my Morningstar Farms fake-steak strips were produced (or, for that matter, sold to me) by humanely treated humans? Is a feedlot any worse than a pesticide-doused commercial soybean farm? Still, every little bit helps, or so I’m told. Thus, I resolve not to eat meat unless I can verify that the animal it comes from lived a good life. (Unless it’s veal stock, or bacon, because while I might have ethics, I am no martyr.) I’ve bought Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, so cross your fingers for me and hope for the best. —Liz Entman
I could piss and moan, feeling sorry for myself for having had to spend a year in federal prison and lose my freedom for that time. It’s not much fun, living behind rolls of barbed wire and being shepherded by steroidal trolls with shaved heads and shotguns, especially if your crime was selling stolen library books (to be exact, my charge was “illicit sale of archaeological artifacts”). During my year in the big house, I wrote a book, read close to 50, and learned some Polish from a fellow inmate, jak si masz? I realized early on that this was certainly an experience I wouldn’t have outside the fence. But once was enough. Do widzenia! —TMN reader David Breithaupt
I play computer games rarely, not because I don’t like them but because I like them entirely too much, and they do to my free time what corn snakes do to mice. In fact, I make a point of never buying them (computer games, that is—corn snakes I purchase weekly). But when I saw the pristine copy of Fallout 2 at the thrift store last week, I had no choice but to fork over the $4. Now it sits on my desk, taunting me from within the shrink-wrap. I swear I won’t play it—at least until I finish the project I am currently working on, and this other project. Although it probably wouldn’t hurt to install it and at least watch the opening animation… —Matthew Baldwin
Burritos from the taco truck(s): I am not going to lie and say this is easy. On a given weekday, there are three taco trucks equidistant from my work, all of which make the bomb-ass veggie burrito. And if I am feeling especially hungry, one does great carnitas and all do better-than-average carne asada. So yeah, I am literally surrounded by good burritos, which ain’t a bad thing to be surrounded by. Calorie-wise, though, they are pushing the limit. Like most things delectable, they are overly large, greasy, and full of unnecessary evils. Requests such as “light cheese” and “no sour cream” invariably go ignored when I remember to ask (which is not often), so the resulting tin-foil-wrapped tube o’ goodness probably offers around half my daily caloric intake in one delicious punch.
The alternative? Tacos, of course. Still satisfying, still greasy and delicious, but lacking the dairy and decidedly less voluminous. I’d calculate them around 250 calories each, give or take. Plus, you can mix it up—two chicken, two carnitas, three carne asada, and two veggie…
Why the fuck haven’t I lost any weight yet? —Eric Feezell
I’m denying myself solitude and freedom from the “technologically connected global village.” It’d be a dream come true to be free from all the wires. Why can’t I? Because even if I want to let go of the wires, do I really want to let go of the person on the other side? —TMN reader Indranil Dasgupta
I am denying myself of my mother. She is bad for my health, and she insists on making me feel smaller than a pin, and I only wish as thin as one. When I’m with her, I instantly hate myself. But without her, I feel lost, like I’m traveling through a Russian winter, naked, carrying a basket full of kittens. Every day that I don’t have to call her and pretend to be interested in how much she loves asparagus, I breathe a sigh of relief. But each night, when the phone doesn’t ring, and my husband is repairing his toy car, and I’m watching House Hunters on HGTV, I feel a pang of what I am denying myself. I crave her voice, her nonsense, and her utter lack of tact for dealing with my life, and I can’t have it. I continue to starve myself of her affections, because she is so toxic, it is killing me. —TMN reader Chrissy Mueller
Time was I used to purchase those enormous gallon-sized boxes of Goldfish crackers. At one point my roommate did the grocery shopping in my place and came home complaining about my “gold-plated” fish, because, hey, when you buy an enormous carton of crackers, it’s going to cost more than those puny little sacks they normally come in. Lately, however, my affair with Goldfish has expired. I’m growing up, I’ve moved on: to white cheddar Cheez-Its. —Bridget Fitzgerald
I’ve been eating as a pescatarian for about a month now. A pescatarian diet means you can have meat that swims, but none that walks. There are lots of honorable reasons people do this. It’s better for the Earth, not to mention the animals. (Apparently, some people recoil from the increasingly yucky ways they’re raising and killing fleshy, savory animals these days.) I’m doing it because meat is making me fat.
More than a year after having a baby, I still had five pounds of pregnancy weight to lose, and I was pissed. I finally decided I’d rather skip ham for a while than take up yet another hobby that involves unattractive shoes. In San Francisco, it’s been shockingly easy to eat this way. My husband and I go wide-eyed in vegetarian restaurants where all the patrons have glowing skin, and taut abs, and yoga mats rolled next to their chairs.
We’ve discussed sticking with this diet even after we’ve shed the unwanted weight. But then, hung over, we stumble into a breakfast joint, and all we want to do is order sausage. Two pounds to go, and then I’m taking my tiny little ass out for a great big steak. —Margaret Mason
I’m denying myself a new(er) car. I have an old car, a car that looks like it crashed into a truckload of ugly. It’s a powder-blue Mercury Sable wagon—an awful-looking car even when it rolled off the assembly line 12 years ago, shiny and new. Aside from the factory-installed imperfections, every month it seems like I add a new bit of character. This month it was the fine abrasions all over the hood, acquired from scrubbing off the bodies of thousands of love-bug carcasses. (I was told that if you didn’t clean those off soon, it could ruin your paint; it appears the opposite is also true.) Better that these mistakes happen with this car than a new(er) car, which, come to think of it, would be looking pretty bad by now had I been its owner these past few months. —Andrew Womack