Mario Villalobos

Guide of Conduct

I set my oven to 350˚F and waited a few minutes before sticking my blueberry bagels inside. I set my timer to ten minutes and began watching the newest season of House of Cards on Netflix. The ingredients for the bagels consist of “enriched unbleached wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup, and blueberry flavored bits.” Usually I don’t allow these ingredients into my body, but I made another exception to my diet because I’m trying to adhere to the more psychologically palatable 80/20 split: 80% healthy foods, 20% everything else. About half an hour before toasting the bagels, I toasted another set of bagels, which I slathered with cream cheese and quickly devoured. I tried to limit myself to one bagel, but my cravings were stronger than my willpower.

I read the Paris Review’s interview of Jonathan Franzen in which he said he reads four to five hours a night, sometimes more. I quickly felt inadequate after reading that because I don’t read anywhere near that much. I didn’t read a word of Don Quixote yesterday because I was too tired after writing, so I went to bed instead. The fact that I began watching the newest season of House of Cards is proof that I’m becoming weaker in the guide of conduct I’ve lived by for months: eating well, reading voraciously, and showing up every day. When my timer went off, I pulled the bagels from the oven and spread cream cheese all over them. I quickly took the plate with the bagels over to my bed, resumed watching House of Cards, and moaned in ecstasy at the delicious taste of my forbidden snack. I ignored the executive center of my brain and instead gave in to my lizard brain.

Deprivation had served me well throughout my journey, but I could see the cracks starting to show. I tell myself that life is too short for me not to write or read or live well, but then I live by denying myself many of the simpler pleasures that life offers. I stopped drinking because I hated who I became when I drank. Now that I’ve outgrown that original reason, though, I’m still disallowing myself from buying wine because I don’t want to break my streak. I’ve cut out wheat from my diet because it’s not Paleo, and I fear I would gain bad weight from this food. My friend once told me that I may have an eating disorder. I brushed her comment off because I didn’t believe her, but now I’m consuming bagels and eating burgers as a reaction to her comment. In reality, I’m eating these forbidden foods because I’m lonely.

Food makes me feel good. When I live my days habitually, I don’t think about what I’m eating because eating healthily was part of my habit. As I’ve been questioning my habits and yearning for a girl that in all respects should be forbidden, I’ve been giving in to what I’ve essentially banned from my life. I need to find a balance, something I’ve been craving for since day 31. For now, I’m going to experiment with adhering to my guide of conduct while also satisfying any unhealthy cravings. In return, I’m going to try to double my reading output. I won’t be near Franzen’s four to five hours a night, but I have to start somewhere.