Twenty One Cheetos, Celeste Corcoran, and “Different Beginnings”

Did you know that one serving of the crunchy Cheetos consists of “about 21 pieces.” It’s true. I Googled it Monday during lunch while eating Cheetos. I counted out 21 pieces. I assembled them onto a napkin and took a picture so that I could show you.


Limiting oneself to such a pittance of cheese curls would result it what I can only assume is the gustatory equivalent of “blue balls.” What a pitiful snack. I think I would rather have no Cheetos at all than limit myself to 21 pieces. I guess that is where I am. Cheetos are the next thing I’m giving up.

Warning: This post is about weight, diet, exercise, fitness, aging, etc. I have very little patience for listening to other people talk about weight-related issues, it bores me to tears, but I have boundless interest in talking about my own. I guess that makes me self-centered. I may blog about my self-centeredness later, but right now I want to blog about being fat.

I love Cheetos. True story: one day, last July, I was given a bag of Cheetos as a gift by not one but two different people in the same day! First, a graduate student under my supervision thanked me for our semester together by giving me a goodie bag that included a large bag of crunchy Cheetos. Later that evening, my mother dropped by with yet another bag.

“Here sweetie,” she said. “I saw these at the store and thought of you. They’re new. Salsa flavored. But you’ve probably already tried them…”

Imagine my ambivalence at receiving junk food as a present. On one hand, I felt like kind of a lard ass. On the other hand, it sure did feel good to be understood and accepted for who I was.

My weight has always, and I mean from 7th grade to this year, fluctuated between 145 and 155 pounds. I typically lose 10 pounds every Spring and then gain it back by Thanksgiving. My activity level fluctuates similarly. I am on and off the fitness wagon several times throughout the year (primarily with jogging as I hate sports and can’t do much more with my body than put one foot in front of the other over and over again).

This past year, when my weight again climbed to 155 pounds, I decided to take a different approach. I decided that, rather than embarking on the all-encompassing diet/exercise regimen that would help me temporarily shed the extra 10 pounds (and aggravate my family and friends to no end), I would implement small changes. My hypothesis was that the small changes, though they would result in slower weight loss, would be easier to maintain as life-long habits.

The first change I made was to eliminate Diet Coke from my diet. Diet Coke, to me, was what heroin was to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Basketball Diaries. I was never able to enjoy it in moderation – would set out to have one a day and end up drinking five.

Studies show that artificial sweetener spikes the appetite. Our brains associate sweet tasting substances with calorie density, you see, and when the diet soda fails to deliver on it’s promise of calories, our bodies seek out the carbohydrates that will deliver the calories that were expected.

I replaced Diet Coke with unsweetened iced tea. I stuck to it. It has been months now. Nearly a year. Good for me, right?

The second change I made was to switch from putting sugar and milk (and sometimes cream) into my coffee to drinking coffee black. It took some getting used to, but I did it. It has been almost a year. I don’t even think about putting sugar in my coffee now.

The third change I made this year was putting an end to my once per week ritual (usually on Friday) of having a sausage biscuit for breakfast. The convenience store where I’d buy the biscuit, Ginger’s Grocery, my namesake, was purchased by a Muslim business man who had religious objections to serving pork. No sausage biscuits. They had a beef bacon biscuit, and I tried it once, but it was like a dog treat on a bun. Like a Beggin’ strip. Rather than find a new vendor, I decided to cut the biscuits out completely. It never even crosses my mind in the morning now.

If you’re actually still reading, if you’re curious to know how well my experiment is going, I wish to tell you that I did not lose any weight this year. I actually gained weight! After avoiding the scale for 6 weeks over Christmas holiday (largely because the gifts were stashed in my closet on and around the scale), I was shocked on New Years Day to find that I weighed in at 165 pounds. The last time I weighted that much, I was making lists of baby names.

My husband and I joined a Bible study at church called Run for God the first week of January. As part of the Bible study, we are training for a 10K. I have met or exceeded the expectations of the running schedule, 2 to 4 miles 5 days per week, and my weight has not dropped an ounce. My weight would have started to drop with the increased cardio when I was younger, but I’m not younger.

In an effort to determine how upset I should be, I checked a weight chart online and found that, at 5’5″ and 165 pounds, I am 10 pounds away from being obese. Here is the chart:


For readers that don’t know me in real life, here is a selfie I took last Monday. This was the day I Googled “How many Cheetos in a serving.” This was the day I plugged my weight into that stupid chart, a picture of me 10 pounds away from obesity:


Don’t tell me in the comments section that I look just fine or that I am cute or that you wish you were my size, because “overweight” and “obese” are not words intended to describe a person’s attractiveness. They are medical terms used to describe a person’s increased likelihood of becoming ill. Eating Cheetos and similar refined foods in excess does increase the chances of a person developing an illness such as Diabetes. It is just a fact.

As far as I am concerned, the obesity epidemic in this country is fueled, in part, by the false idea that health, attractiveness, sex appeal and self-worth are all the same thing. They aren’t. This idea is dangerous. In my opinion, assuming these four things are one and the same empowers attractive overweight women to make poor choices about diet and exercise, to think I’m pretty, so I don’t have to be so careful. Conversely, I think it causes women who feel unattractive (despite efforts to be fit) to give up on their efforts. Obviously health, attractiveness, sexuality and self-worth are interrelated, but they are not the same thing.

Anyway, after looking at that weight chart, my legs sore from yesterday’s run, I decided to cut the Cheetos out of my diet. I haven’t decided what food I will use as a replacement. Someone suggested baby carrots, stating, “It is probably just the crunch you’re after, and hey – they’re orange.” (By this logic, I could replace my son with a demented old man because he, too, has a face and occasionally makes a mess in the bathroom.)

Cheetos will not be the last thing I give up. I know that. I think what I find so frustrating about aging (or at least how I was feeling on Monday when I started this draft) is that there is this constant need for me to give up something, but I get less and less for my efforts. Less physically, anyway. It is like every time I get good at the game, the rules change. And listen, I don’t want to look like a model or anything. I don’t care about wearing a bikini. I’m 37. Who cares about my swimwear? No one. I don’t want to look amazing, but I want to look like me. I sense that the discrepancy between how I see myself and how I am seen by others is growing.

What cheered me up, what replaced my self-pity with hope and inspiration today, was a quote from another mom. No, not this:

Maria Kang
(Maria Kang)


Celeste Corcoran
(Celeste Corcoran as pictured in the Boston Globe)

Celeste Corcoran, pictured above with her daughter and physical therapist, is a runner. She lost her legs in April while running the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon, I’m sure you recall, was bombed. I read that Celeste has started running again.

“This is not the end,” Corcoran said. “This is just a different beginning.”

No offense to Maria Kang, but somebody please make a photograph of Celeste Corcoran that says, “What’s your excuse?” What a calling out that would be.

She is brave, and she is right. Everyday, every year, no matter how old we get, no matter how our bodies change, there we are. A different beginning. There is nothing to be gained by looking back at what we had, at how much easier things once were, but everything to be gained from taking stock in what we still have and running with it.

43 Comments on “Twenty One Cheetos, Celeste Corcoran, and “Different Beginnings””

  1. I had the same experience this year as I ballooned up to 150 for the first time ever. I kept looking at myself in the windows of the stores and saying “This isn’t me.” My sister tried to tell me 150 wasn’t bad, but I knew different. It wasn’t about the number, it was about how I felt when I looked in the mirror. So my husband and I had a weight loss competition…he won, but so did I…I have a thinner, healthier husband and I look like myself again.

    • It’s a touchy situation. We shouldn’t feel like gaining weight makes us a “bad” person, but we also shouldn’t give up on the idea that we are strong enough to push ourselves a little more so that we can continue feeling like (and thus more effectively being) who we are. And my weight has dropped like 3 pounds since Monday and the Cheeto counting unpleasantness, which is crazy. The first time my weight has decreased in months.

  2. Holy cow. This is one of the best things I’ve read concerning weight and self image. I love your attitude about this. As far as I’m concerned, you can talk about your weight all you want 🙂

    • I agree with Kelly. This is by far one of the best things I’ve ever read about weight and self image. I lived what you said about lumping health, attractives and self worth all together and it being a part of the obesity epidemic (both sides of what you said ). I loved how you presented the facts. I loved how open and honest you were about your habits and weight. And mostly, I loved the inspiration you shared at the end and how it correlated with thinking of what used to be easier. It gave me a lot of perspective and I appreciate that. I’m 37 and still have my baby weight with a kiddo who is almost 2. I needed to hear a lot of what you said. I needed both the reality check and the perspective with a dash of inspiration. Thank you!


      • Wow, that was so cool of you to say and so spot-on what I was trying to communicate that I don’t even know what to say. I guess I’ll say thank you!

  3. In 2010 (at the age of 56) I was on a cholesterol lowering drug, a drug for “prediabetes” and had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and began looking like Snuffleupagus every night at bedtime. I started riding a bike. The next year I decided UH-gain to go to Weight Watchers. THIS TIME I meant business. Fast forward 4 years: I rode 62 miles on my 60th birthday. I am on no drugs. I still look like Snuffleupagus at bedtime. I am 54 pounds lighter and STILL going to Weight Watchers, but have just begun training to work for them. You can do what you want to do, but you are right..take stock of what you’ve got and run with it!
    You. are. a. hoot! I love your writing. Please don’t stop!

  4. I used to be 40 pounds heavier and then I started running and eating better. Now I’ve been so sick I can’t run and I’ve lost so much weight my thighs don’t touch. Apparently that is desirable to a faction of the population but all I know is I look awful and I’m too weak to run. To pursue health, and not body size, shape or attractiveness, is something I wish more girls learned at a younger age. Another beautiful post, Ginjuh.

    • I remember when you got on the running kick a while back and was very inspired, to be honest. Eating and exercising to be beautiful/sexy is a disaster and we need to drop it. Beautiful people look beautiful at any weight. Plain (or unattractive) people that work out are thinner versions of their plain or unattractive selves. Fit people can still have cellulite and pot bellies. If lack of attractiveness becomes an excuse for giving up, we become, well, what we are now (culturally). We need to hang out, Maggie.

  5. Ginger, have you tried weights? That has made all the difference for me. The lack of muscle is often what slows our metabolism as we age…just a thought that worked for me.

    • To be honest, not consistently, and you’re exactly right. I think I get hung up on cardio because of the calorie burning aspect, but increasing muscle mass would help. I need to find a strength-training buddy. I won’t do that on my own. I bet my husband would join me. Thanks for the feedback!

  6. I looked up myself on the BMI chart and, well, according to that I’m supposed to be obese LOL! A friend once told me the chart doesn’t really factor in your muscle density and skips over a couple of other things (Google: Why BMI is bogus). Considering that you’ve been working out, it might be possible that you’ve grown super strong and that might explain the extra weight? Supah Ginjuh!

  7. You’re so right. Celeste is an inspiration for accepting your body and moving forward. I also love the point you made re the difference between physical beauty and health.
    This post came at a time where I’m at my heaviest and extremely depressed about my current weight. Thank you for your refreshing perspective.
    And 21 Cheetos? Bah. I think they missed a few zeroes there.

    • Right?! And with the puffy Cheetos there are only 15 to a serving! Welcome to my “heaviest I’ve ever been” club; now let’s both go get disqualified. Thank you so much for your honest feedback!

  8. You make some great points and your honesty is refreshing. I was about to help myself to a second bowl of granola and was shocked that I’d probably already consumed two actual servings!

    • Thank you, you’re kind. It (taking care of ourselves) is fluid. We will all have days when we have several servings of something (or several servings of everything), and I think that is fine. The trick is not to let it define us as a person who habitually over does it and has no control over stopping. Girl power to you!

  9. Wanting to look like the “me” we see in our head. You put in to words what I have always felt and had such a hard time explaining. For me, as I delve deeper into my 40’s, it’s becoming a little more about aging well and wanting to be a spunky active person in my old age. But I still want to look like “me”. I agree with Amy, it’s all about the weights! You definitely get more bang for your buck with weights, any kind of strength training. Of course, this is coming from someone who detests and dreads cardio….

  10. Wow – this is a great post with so many insights. Loved, “They are medical terms used to describe a person’s increased likelihood of becoming ill.” I never thought of those labels that way (obese, yes, but not the term ‘overweight’).

    And yes, 21 Cheetos is nothing.

    • Thanks! I think of the term “overweight” as the sort of yellow light. It’s not likely that an overweight 37 year old like me will get diabetes or high blood pressure at this stage in the game without a strong family history of early onset, but it is a good time to decide you want to reel it in. 15 or 20 pounds in ones 30s, though not easy to lose, is still easier than 40 pounds in one’s 50s . Thanks for reading!

  11. Didn’t know that about diet coke spiking the appetite.. Knowledge is definitely power. Incredibly inspiring take on weight loss and a new perspective to me how we do roll health all together with attractiveness! A heady mix!

  12. The first thing I ever said to my wife – my opening line on the night I met her 25 years ago last week was, “You know, that Diet Coke’s gonna kill you.” 25 years later she’s still drinking it, though not nearly to the extent she used to. It is a horrible chemical concoction intended to fool people into thinking it will make them thinner and healthier. So keep up the good work there. I like to congratulate my friends who kicked the Diet Coke habit the same way I congratulate my friends who quit smoking. Coffee and tea are good for you in moderation. Beyond that, there is nothing to say other than ‘I hear ya’. As I get older, it takes more work to get fewer results. Better than the alternative though. I don’t want to have to ride a scooter through Six Flags or Walmart before I’m 80. Good luck and keep moving forward.

    • Yeah, the scooter, no kidding. Patton Oswalt has a great bit about worrying that he will be really fat and unhealthy by the times his kids are grown and that they will be trying to find a chair for him to sit in outside his daughter’s graduation. “We’ve got to get Pop pop out of the heat.”

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