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Knowing When to Give into Your Cravings

For those of you who know me well, you might not be surprised by this admission: I love ice cream. For those of you who know me mostly through my articles and newsletters, you might be shocked. Just about any flavor will do, (except mint chocolate chip) any time of the year (June, December, or March). Oh heck, while I am at it…I also love scones and can spot an excellent scone from an average scone at first sight. There is nothing like a good cup of hot tea and a blueberry scone in my perfect world.

It is true that whole, unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods make up a good portion of my diet. But it is also true that I have a sweet tooth. I often talk about my 80/20 rule during my workshops and talks. If you are good 80% of the time, it takes care of the 20% that we are not. This is how I approach my own nutrition and what works for me. I tend to give in to my ice cream cravings at night, mostly on the weekends. Since it is a special treat on the weekends, I tend to be picky about my ice cream concoctions and prefer to eat them at home. I need just the right ratio of mix-ins (top on my list are dark chocolate chips, brownies, and chocolate covered pretzels) to ice cream. I also like my ice cream soft and melted so it has to sit out for awhile.

The scones are a different story. I often go to a cafe when I need to be really productive and leave the distractions that plague those of us who work from home. I also have meetings with clients, colleagues, and other health professionals in these settings. One of the things I love about Austin is all of the wonderful independent cafes and bakeries in the city. It is easier to turn your nose up at the standard, generic looking pastries at a chain (don’t you just want to inject some character into those sorry looking things?). Here is the problem: sometimes my inner sweet tooth and my reputation as a nutritionist go to battle. If I am alone and this urge seems justified, I happily order my scone and tea and savor every bite. If I am meeting someone I may skip the scone for fear of being judged (what kind of nutritionist eats a scone?!?). That is not living true to my 80/20 rule. Since these occasions really are ‘special’ I should feel no shame in ordering that scone, especially if it comes from a genuine place and is not a band-aid to a bad work day, family stress, or boredom. That is the key to living to the 80/20 rule.

So let’s make a deal: going forward I promise to order that scone regardless of the company. In exchange, you must promise to follow these guidelines when it comes to enjoying your version of scones and ice cream:

  1. If you are turning to special occasion foods regularly for the wrong reasons, attack the problem head on. Stop using food as an emotional band-aid. Many of us use food to comfort us when an important aspect of our life (career, relationships, exercise, spirituality, etc) is out of balance. This is big and not an easy feat. Tackle it head on and get the support (friends, family, professionals) you need. There is nothing more important than your health and too many processed, refined, sugar-laden foods in your diet can take away from good health.
  2. Make sure that most of your food is whole, unprocessed, and unrefined. Whole foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins. Americans spend 90% of their food budget on packaged, refined foods. Evaluate how and where you spend your money. If special occasion foods crowd these whole foods off of your plate, the 80/20 rule isn’t being observed.
  3. Try healthier versions of your favorites: pizza made at home with whole grain crust and twice the amount of veggies and baked goods made with whole wheat flour and natural sweeteners. When nothing but the real thing will do, however, give in. I learned many years ago that frozen yogurt just doesn’t cut it. You will only find the real thing – ice cream – in my freezer. The simpler the product is and the less ingredients it has (milk, cream, and sugar vs. a list of chemicals and additives I can not pronounce) the more satisfied I am.
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