The Virtual Binge

It’s four o’clock somewhere, as they say…SUGAR TIME!

Dig through the cabinets… isn’t there enough stuff here for a little cookie dough? Do I have chocolate chips? Eggs?

Yes, I do.

I can make it for the kids. Yes! The kids! They would love me if I made them some cookies. And it would show them that I love them as well.

Love…sugar…I’m so tired….so hungry…and I will be so fat…if I follow through on this plan…and I’m trying not to be fat…but I am so hungry and tired…


Almost every day last week, I was hankering for cookie dough in the afternoon, but not just any cookie dough, or I would have started stirring it up as soon as I found the ingredients in the cabinet.  I like giant cookies, ridiculous cookies. Nothing thin or crispy.

So I looked online for the perfect recipe. I googled “ridiculously thick chocolate chip cookies,” and I discovered that there is a cookie from Levain Bakery in New York that many people on the internet have tried to duplicate.

I started to sort through the recipes, and it took awhile the first day, and I ran out of time to make them.

The next day I knew where to look, so I went back to the most promising sites, and read through the ingredients, trying to make a decision. Again, I never got around to cooking, partly because of the time factor, partly because, reading the ingredients, imagining myself eating them, I already felt a little sick for potentially glutting myself on cookie dough, even though I hadn’t actually eaten anything.

mmmm….delicious virtual cookies…

By the third day, starting to recognize a pattern, the sweet craving came on, and it occurred to me that just as I can spend hours reading about God and Catholic stuff without ever actually praying,  I can use this negative tendency to my advantage. I can read about cookies, imagine myself eating them, and possibly stave off any actual damage.

Lo, it worked. A week and a half later, I still have not made cookies.


One can view this situation in several different ways:

1. What a waste of time.

2. The internet sucks all the real joy out of life and encourages us to be satisfied with false experiences.

3. Score! It’s like those dreams I’ve had where I wake up feeling guilty for eating 10,000 calories at the China Buffet, until I realize it was just a dream, and I still get to eat breakfast!

4. It’s probably not a good thing to have such an unhealthy attachment to food, but clinically speaking, virtual eating may be a promising development in the treatment of obesity.



Looks like someone already beat me to #4.

“According to new research, imagining eating a specific food reduces your interest in that food, so you eat less of it.

This reaction to repeated exposure to food is called habituation, and it’s well known to occur while eating. A “tenth bite of chocolate, for example, is desired less than the first bite,” the study authors note.

But the new research is the first to show that habituation can occur solely via the power of the mind.

“A lot of people who diet try to avoid thinking about stimuli they crave. This research suggests that may not be the best strategy,” said study leader Carey Morewedge, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.”

Read the rest.


And here is virtual eating being used for the evaluation and treatment of patients with eating disorders. 



So there you have it. It’s either totally depressing, or totally awesome.

I still want to try one of these recipes someday, and eat an actual Levain knock-off (speaking of false experiences). But it’s kind of nice to know that wasting time on the internet can be good for something.

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About Elizabeth Duffy