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Key Lime Donut, The Donut Hole - Destin, Florida
A Double Chocolate Donut from Dunkin' is 370 calories. It has 22 grams of fat, including 10 grams of saturated fat. It has 40 grams of carbohydrates, with 19 of those grams coming from sugar. The much less dense Krispy Kreme Original Glazed donut, in comparison, has a paltry 190 calories, with 11 grams of fat, and 22 grams of carbs. These statistics, on most Saturdays, are completely irrelevant to me--I am known to eat six to eight donuts over the course of a 24-hour period. I carefully pick out my dozen with the knowledge that I probably will not eat all twelve donuts, but I also know that I can come dangerously close to emptying the entire box, leaving a few grease marks, shards of dried sugar, and a scattering of sprinkles in my wake.
While I have always loved donuts, dating back to my childhood days where there was no Sunday more magical than when my dad would get a box of lemons and Boston Kremes from the 202/31 Circle Dunkin' Donuts, and I would wake up to a shiny white box with a glorious array of pastries--I started to become well known for my love of donuts relatively recently--only about a half-dozen years ago.
This coincided with me starting a weight-loss routine: a variation of a low-carb diet. I would deny myself most carbohydrates throughout the course of the week--stripping the breading off of chicken strips, throwing biscuits in the trash, staying away from all things fructose. I would eat "clean" for six days of the week, with the exception of Saturdays, where I would eat anything I wanted. I am hopelessly addicted to sugar: I never took up smoking cigarettes or doing drugs. My alcohol consumption, for the most part, is limited to every two or three weekends these days. This, of course, was a difficult task for me to undergo, but I desperately needed to lose weight. In April of 2014, I weighed 331 lbs. My body hated me and I hated my body; I had dreams of slicing layer upon layer of my fat off of my bones and hiding them in a bathroom closet. I prayed for a miracle in the form of a coma; to fall asleep for six months and wake up with zero complications--a brief trade of half a year of life for a handful of inches off of my waist. An easy fix. A new way to live.
Instead, I adjusted to this new way of eating. On Saturday mornings, I would be so excited to be able to eat sugar, that I would barely be able to sleep--I'd wake up earlier than I normally did during the work week, eat two or three Publix chocolate chip cookies (procured the night before), hop in my car & head to Dunkin, or Daylight, or Krispy Kreme to get a dozen assorted. Sure, some days I'd get other breakfast items--a chicken biscuit from Bojangles, or a taquito from Whataburger, but there were always, always donuts. It became a ritual--the pilgrimage up 69 North to Taylorville, or the trip down McFarland. I loved waiting in line, doing the math in my head: doubles and trios of favorite styles before filling out the rest with instant whims and special editions: the autumn Pumpkin, the winter Gingerbread.
This became well known amongst my friends--Saturdays were also big social days, and so I would show up to the cookout with a glossy box to share--though only after I took down three or four that morning alongside my iced caramel latte. Other days, I would invite friends over for "Donut Club" where we would congregate around my kitchen table as we drank coffee & discussed what time we were thinking about heading down to the bar, where I would share an original glazed with friends and strangers alike. Through these antics, I became well known as a "donut guy"--friends would ask my opinions on donuts & I would give them. They would tell me about their hometown donut shops & invite me to come visit so that I could tell them what they thought. People brought me donuts and donut related accoutrements: donut pillows, donut coffee cups, donut stickers, books on donuts, donut socks. Any time there was a donut-related news item, say, the Dunkin/Boston Marathon collaboration (yes, I own a pair), or the Ohio Donut Trail, or a restaurant making the world's largest donut, it would find its way onto my Facebook page from multiple sources. I leaned into this myself, partly for my love of obsession, as well as the fact that, hell yeah, I really do love donuts. Much like my own Saturday morning process in Tuscaloosa, I found immense joy in traveling to new places & seeking out their best donuts in hopes of finding a hidden gem. To me, it was like unearthing a secret: telling a friend moving to Cincinnati to make a trip to Holtman's, or finding an incredible crumb donut at Donut Connection in Escanaba, Michigan, about an hour past the Wisconsin/Upper Peninsula border.
Then the weight came back on.
I find joy in sugar. To me, I feel as if eating and my body are two separate entities--I refuse to acknowledge the correlation between calorie intake and the changing of my body because I simply do not want to know. I want to eat food without thinking. What was appealing to me about the "cheat day," if you will, is that there was no judgment--I could eat whatever and however much I wanted with the knowledge that the following day, I would be back to being strict. To limit myself to one donut simply was improbable and impossible--there are thousands of donut shops in this country, each with dozens of types; who am I to deny them all?
The problem, of course, is that the world deems you unworthy to enjoy food if you are fat. One of my instagram follows, @junkbanter, is a fellow donut-lover from New Jersey who finds themselves tracking down rare and special editions of junk food: Crunch Berries Popcorn Mix, Hostess S'mores Cupcakes, Lucky Charms Ice Cream. While I appreciate the content, the captions are full of diet trigger words: "inner fat kid," "eating like a pig," "a total fatass like me," etc. The secret, of course, is that the influencer behind the account is thin & will go out of their way to let people in the comments know it--dropping his workout routine, as well as incorporating diet and workout culture hashtags in his posts, including reviewing "healthy" junk food, such as Quest Bars, and other flavored supplements.
I don't fault the @junkbanter account for doing what it does, but I also know that myself or someone who registered as obese could never have a similar account. A study done by the Seattle Journal for Social Justice revealed that overweight people in courtrooms are viewed as less trustworthy: "The focus on individual responsibility and control of size masks negative assumptions about fat and fat people as untrustworthy and nonconforming. In the criminal courtroom in particular, fact-finders associate the fat defendant with acting, living, and existing beyond social boundaries to his detriment." Essentially, society creates a "fat person's paradox"--people view an overweight person as someone who must eat a lot of food, but does not trust their perceived expertise on the subject. Perhaps the mentality is "Oh, look at that guy, why would I trust his donut recommendations, he obviously will eat anything," or, people simply feel as if they are encouraging a "bad habit" that they feel perfectly comfortable celebrating if it is coming from a thin body.
I'm susceptible to this as well. I have downplayed my love of the donut lately. The donut, health-wise, gets a bad rap: it is viewed as the epitome of gluttony, a perfect vessel of sugar and empty calories that evaporates the second it appears. It is equated with sloth and stupidity: Homer Simpson and lazy cops. It carries so much of its own weight.
I have been unable to nurture myself properly in the past few months. My grandmother, my favorite person who didn't meet an apple turnover she didn't like, died in December. My Christmas was racked with grief and exhaustion: a holiday loaded with complexities took on a completely new form. By the time the frost had lifted, COVID-19 had taken hold, and that too, made me sad: the only happiness taking the form of a post-run trip to Dunkin for a latte & a Boston Kreme. The donut had taken on a role of grief eating; something that I had never encountered when I was younger--to me, it was always a food that brought levity and elation. There was, of course, the sadness of eating a whole pizza, or, a late night Taco Bell drivethru visit after the bar closed, but never the donut. In this time, I reached a weight that I promised I would never see again during those six days on/one day off days.
And so, I had to say goodbye to the donut. For two months, I followed the keto diet: an eating plan that involves limiting your carb intake to less than 30 grams each day. I don't find doing this overly difficult, although I do get bored of having to think about food all of the time--the ultimate cruelty of dieting is having to constantly assess what you cannot have. I have been keeping this eating plan relatively close to the vest, though after my first week, I made a joke on Instagram that I would never eat a "keto donut" no matter how desperate it got, and I don't think I ever will--I have eaten fake waffles, fake ice cream, fake pancakes, fake pizza crust, fake maple syrup, and fake bread. But I have no room for a coconut flour fat bomb with a hole cut in the middle. This is not what nourishes me. I am not sustained.
During the pandemic, I think of all of the places that I am missing. I think of the donuts I am missing too: the cinnamon sugar donut I ate in a coffeeshop on Mackinac Island. The trip to St. Paul and the dozen from Mojo Monkey. I think of home and the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmer's Market and what I would give to hug my mom and split a lemon powdered donut with her, the butter knife glazed over in yellow gel and white speckles. I think of the beach and the long lines at The Donut Hole in Destin, a few miles of sand dunes away from our hotel, and how I'd pick out my twelve and eat one as Tasha & I waited on hashbrowns and eggs before we spent the rest of the day listening to the waves and trying to identify the massive planes in their descent toward the Fort Walton Air Force Base without a care in the world of what my sand-scattered stomach looked like. Exhausted, after a long day of sun and whiskey lemonade, the box would be waiting for me back in the hotel room: the powdered sugar of their Key Lime specialty mixing with the grit of the sand as it covered the hotel room floor--the citrus flavor just bitter enough to offset the sweetness from the rest of the donut. I eat the donut quickly, as the filling overflows the sides of the pastry--we'll be on our way to dinner soon, but I am on vacation, and every donut is a celebration.
On Saturday, two months after eliminating sugar from my daily consumption and over 30 lbs lighter, I woke up early. I made the drive to Dunkin--I bought a latte and a half-dozen: two double-chocolate, two Boston Kreme, two cinnamon. Most days I would eat at least one donut on the short drive home, usually while stopped at the long light as I make a left onto Hargrove from McFarland. Instead, I waited until I got home--I opened the patio door to let Summer run a few laps outside. The Alabama sun hadn't yet dominated the day, but instead was in the distance, simply making its presence known. I took a bite, and, for at least that small moment, I felt whole.