EATING MY WAY THROUGH THE YEARS

I recently celebrated a birthday. Not with tons of presents. Not with a blowout party. I celebrated my birthday the way I always celebrate my birthday.

I ate.

I ate from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep. I ate here, there and everywhere. I ate at home, in restaurants, on the street, in a movie theater.

I had but one rule.

If it’s fattening, I’m swallowing.

This is not how I operate the rest of the year. The rest of the year, I am like you. I consider the carbs, the calories, the sugar, the fat. I try to stay disciplined. When I break the rules, I feel guilty.

Which is why I love my birthday. The only guilt I show is if I miss a food group, such as peanut butter cups.

Some people say they can “feel” another year coming on?

I can taste it.

Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs

Let me give you my menu. I will begin the day with the most indulgent kind of breakfast. No egg whites or plain oatmeal here. I’ll go for chocolate chip pancakes, waffles with ice cream, Cocoa Puffs cereal and cheesy omelets with mushroom sauce.

All at once.

Mid-morning I will try one of those froufrou coffee drinks that I roll my eyes at all year long. Something with syrup and whipped cream and colors normally found in a box of crayons.

And then comes lunch.

Lunch can be great pizza. Or a disgustingly indulgent sandwich (a Reuben or a hero). French fries will be somewhere in the mix. Or onion rings. Something greasy. Dessert will be ordered. Cake or pie.

Did I say candied popcorn?

I love that stuff. I never eat it. But on my birthday, it’s everywhere. This past birthday I had the popcorn-cashews-almonds-honey version and the popcorn-macadamia-nuts-white-chocolate version. I stuff handful after handful. I take a break, but only for …

Ice cream. I never eat ice cream. I used to love it. It doesn’t love me. But on my birthday, we call a truce. I’ll hit a Cold Stone Creamery or a Häagen-Dazs and get the flavors and toppings that I only stare at the rest of the year.

And then dinner.

Dinner can be pasta with fattening sauce or fried chicken or enchiladas or even, yes, even fast food. I swore off fast food years ago.

But I make an exception.

And then more dessert.

A happy birthday for everyone

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Don’t you get sick? I used to. But I developed a technique. You order everything, but you only eat a bit. The main thing is to taste it, to remember the flavors you’ve denied yourself for so long.

And once you splurge, you don’t crave it so much the rest of the year. You had your taste. You had your reminder. You recalled the cold delicious slime of a milkshake or the perfection of melted icing on a Cinnabon. It is safe in your memory bank.

And when you want some during the in-between months, you know your time is coming. You won’t be denied forever. At worst, you are 364 days away from everything.

Which is the beauty of this ritual. That, and the fact that you can do it with other people. I’m very popular on my birthday. Who doesn’t want to chow down at a trough?

So if you’re like me, too old for toys, embarrassed by presents and fighting every day to stay in some kind of shape, may I recommend the birthday binge? Just remember to hit all of your food groups: sweet, fried, fatty, juicy, breaded, fudged …

And Tums.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/mitch.

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