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I used to think I loved food. And it might have been true – I ate a lot of it. No, really, a lot. I could spare you the details – you’ve probably heard something similar.

But the details are fun, right?

So growing up, three pieces of Papa John’s was my usual serving, unless I was stoned or eating even faster than usual, in which case it was four. And a frozen pizza? It didn’t matter how many slices were there. I ate all of them. Have you heard of people getting a meal at a fast food joint and going to a different place to get more? Well, I didn’t have that kind of pride. If I ate a number 6 and it wasn’t enough, I’d just go right back up to the counter and get a chicken sandwich to top it off. A friend told once told me he didn’t like Taco Bell because he felt gross after eating there. I had no idea what he was talking about – Taco Bell was delicious. How could anyone resist?

When I was a freshman in college, a friend took my vitals for his pre-med class. I was ready to wow him – I came from a family of low blood pressure and low heart rates. My numbers, however, were high. I was confused. How could that be? I wondered as I ate an entire bag of fun-sized Twix. Now, I wasn’t fat per se, but I was overweight according to the BMI index. More importantly, I hated how I looked. I gazed at the bodies in women’s magazines, wondering why they were so blessed. I cursed my body and figured that, since I was fat anyway, I’d go ahead and eat that sixth cookie.

I lived like this, with the heartburn and the big fast food budget and the self-loathing – for years until I got a new roommate: Carly. Carly was so kind, so fun, so smart, and so beautiful. So grown-up. I wanted to be just like her. But luckily I was cool about it and we became friends. One day I suggested we make a yummy rich pasta dish for lunch. I was pretty confused when she turned it down. “I like to eat stuff that makes me feel good,” she said.

I didn’t know at the time that the statement would be a pivotal moment for me. I didn’t think about it at all – it was just more of that weird talk from people who didn’t understand that, you know, if something tastes good you are obliged to eat it. Instead I helped her decide what to do with the cabbage and tomatoes sitting on our dining table. We made a beautiful salad – the first raw vegetables I’d eaten in years.

The entire experience was quite surprising. I was surprised how good the food was. I was surprised that it was satisfying. I was surprised that Carly was right – food could make me feel good.

When I realized this, I changed the way I ate. I slowed down. I paid attention to my body from the inside instead of criticizing it from the outside. I discovered that hunger really is the best sauce and started saving food for later so I could enjoy it more. The heartburn stopped. My BMI settled in the normal range. And I think I grew up a little.

Growing up, for me, is full of little moments like this. Moments where things you’ve heard all along just click. You discover a much better way of doing things. You realize that phrases like “delaying gratification” and “self-control” and “taking responsibility” really are necessary corollaries to the privileges of adulthood. And you can do them. And they are actually kind of rad.