Chipping away at an addiction

Potato chips rank among the most addictive foods on the planet.
Potato chips rank among the most addictive foods on the planet.

We all have weaknesses, something or someone we can't say no to. I have many. The one I have tried hardest to conquer is my love of potato chips.

It's silly and ridiculous, being addicted to potato chips. It's just as absurd to write a column about it, but here goes ...

I love chips and I don't discriminate, I'll eat any flavour, shape, temperature or colour. Even those big cheese-flavoured things that taste like cardboard. Like any addict, I feel guilt and shame afterwards. Usually I stop myself just before the bottom of a big bag. I put it back in the pantry so someone else can finish the crumbs. It makes me feel less like I've got a problem.

A front page lead in the Dominion Post last week confirmed to me what I already knew. I've got a food addiction and the good news is I'm not alone. One in three New Zealanders is just like me. And of the top 10 foods we get hooked on, I'm addicted to numbers three and five, chips and hot chips. I am consistent in my weaknesses.

When I was a kid, I would steal to feed my urges. It started with Mum's top cupboard, where she always hid the chips. I once lifted $10 from my sister's purse. Blew most of it on chips, hot and cold. The rest on Space Invaders. Ten dollars was a fortune when your pocket money was 50c a week. When I got caught, it took half a year to pay my sister back.

I've got all the classic symptoms of an addict. When I'm alone, I sneak in a quick bag. I hide chips at the back of the pantry, and on those long solo car trips for work, a family bag is my travel companion of choice. Yes, when it comes to eating, I'm a family unit all on my own.

Part of the problem is I have a sprinter's metabolism. It's lulled me into a false sense of thinness. You see, no matter how much junk I eat, I remain at 75 kilograms. The only time I got to 80kg was when my wife was pregnant with our first child. I called that 5kg explosion my "stress weight". It soon evaporated when Marley was born and has never come back.

However, a fast metabolism doesn't last forever, I'm told. I imagine if I keep this up I'll be that old guy with the skinny shoulders and bloated stomach at the bowling club. The one who can rest a beer on his belly but hardly lift a bowl. It's not a sight I'm looking forward to.

I have tried to quit potato chips. The first 17 days of 2002 I went cold turkey. It ended badly when after a few too many drinks I woke up with a family bag of chips beside my bed. It was like I'd woken up with another woman. What a shambles. I now save myself the shame and give in to my weakness.

When you really think about it, all addictions are ridiculous. Tell me what's logical about putting money in a machine which randomly spins, and is programmed to, over time, take all your money. Or drinking a liquid that makes you do crazy things that can harm all aspects of your life and leaves you feeling sick the next day.

So, in a way, I feel lucky. I've dodged alcohol, drug and pokie addiction and ended up with potato chips. It doesn't affect my work or family life, although I watch my chip consumption in front of my kids. The bad news is that this addiction could one day prove my undoing. There's a lot of saturated fat in potato chips, enough to clog an artery or two.

Potatoes could kill me one day, but like any addict, I know I'm going to quit. Just not yet.

Hadyn Jones is a journalist and a chipoholic. He writes a fortnightly column.

The Dominion Post