Cheese is fucking awesome.
In conclusion, life without cheese is not worth living. Or at least that’s what I thought until I saw this article:
Wait, could I be addicted to cheese?
Gearhardt went on to say some other things, including how liking a certain food is not even in the same ballpark as drug addiction, but it was too late. I wasn't listening to her "facts." I had already been sucked into the media's oversimplification culture; my paranoia was growing by the minute. I looked back on my previous week's meals, trying to find one that didn't include cheese. The task proved fruitless and cheeseful.
That's when I began researching the warning signs of addiction. They were all there.
Sign 1: Experimentation
Hey, what if we added cheese to cheese? What if we deep-fried cheese and then dipped it in melted cheese? If you’ve ever had thoughts like these, know that you are not alone. I have them too. Take this cheese apple for instance. Some people might call this experimentation “disgusting,” but I think this culinary delight could appear on Guy Fieri’s next menu, smack between Guy-talian’s Nachos and the Dragon Chili Cheese Fries.
Sign 2: Regular Use
Did you know some people do not eat cheese every day, for every meal? It’s unbelievable, but it’s also true. So if you are someone who just screamed, “No, what?!? HOW??” I understand, because I too am a daily user of cheese.
Sign 3: Risky Behavior
I needed help quitting, so I turned to the only doctor I could trust: Dr. Phil.
Step 1: Acknowledge the purpose.
Step 2: Think rational thoughts instead of denial.
Step 3: Use alternative coping skills.
For those of you thinking, "Hey Sarah, ever heard of cooking?" Yes, I have. But knowing what it is does not mean I am good at doing it. When I googled "easy microwave meals," I could find nothing worth trying sans cheese. In that moment, I considered the plight of the lactose intolerant and wept. What do they put in their macaroni and cheese? What gives life to their manicotti?
I researched cheese substitutes and purchased some vegan cheese:
This was a highly unpleasant experience. It tasted nothing like cheese, or any food I had ever had before, for that matter. It tasted like bitter nothingness.
Step 4: Identify your danger zones.
Obviously, I had to avoid my favorite pizza places and cheese shops. Unfortunately, I work right around the corner from both Beecher’s and Bedford Cheese Stop, and had to remind myself to steer clear of them on my walk to work, crossing the street to avoid any contact or seductive smells.
New York, or the Big Cheese Apple, is known the world over for its strong love of dairy. As a self-diagnosed cheese addict, I had to stay strong. If I wasn't careful, I would be pulled back into my old habits, trading illegal cheese for cold hard cash in a dark alley.
Step 5: Make lifestyle changes.
Gone were my days of heating up cheese with a lighter next to a caution sign. My lifestyle now consisted of spending an extra 20-30 minutes trying to figure out what to eat.
Step 6: Be accountable and have a support system.
In the beginning, I made some mistakes. I am admitting that; I must remain accountable. I passed up a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos in favor of Cool Ranch, believing I was getting my unhealthy snack on in cheeseless way. Midway through the bag, I made a horrifying discovery:
That’s right. CHEESE IS EVERYWHERE.
Did I still want to eat cheese? Yes. Could I abstain from eating this cheese? Yes. But did I want to abstain? Hell no.
I wanted that cheese and I wanted all of it. I just like it so goddamn much. That's when the words of Amy Gerhardt, the research lead of the addiction study, came back to me:
"Liking is not the same as addiction. We like lots of things. I like hip-hop music and sunshine and my wiener dog, but I'm not addicted to her. I eat cheese every day. That's doesn't mean you're addicted or it has addictive potential."
Maybe… I wasn't addicted? Maybe… I just really like cheese? Of course, my previous consumption of cheese was excessive, and likely unhealthy, but that was not cheese's fault. That was my fault.
Facing my toughest challenge yet, I moved on to the final step.