12/23/15

Permission to eat



Earlier this week, we received a box of homemade Gingerbread cookies from Karel's dad. We are still waiting for another box from Karel's mom.
Every cookie was handmade, individually designed and then sewed into the paper before being shipped from Znojmo, Czech Republic to Greenville, SC.

With every bite, I yum. I can taste the ginger and just a subtle hint of sweetness from the icing.
After one cookie, I feel great. 

With so many diet fads and "lifestyle" ways of eating, we, as a society, have learned to see food as good or bad. Depending on the latest research study, expert or top media post, it's easy to have a one-sided view on "healthy" food and everything else is given a reason to avoid it. 

I can tell you that these gingerbread cookies would not taste as good in May, or February, as they do in December. Because these cookies are tied to the holidays and for Karel, they bring back a lot of memories. Furthermore, eating one cookie feels great in my belly.
Eating 10 cookies would not feel so good.
Knowing that I have permission to eat cookies any time of the year, cookies do not get a lot of attention in my diet. I don't crave cookies because they have never been off limit in my diet. I just choose not to eat them regularly because they don't have a place in my "typical" diet. I don't save my calories for cookies or make sure I eat less carbs to offset a cookie binge late at night. They are just cookies and I don't crave them. Same with most sweets.

Sure, they taste great and can be mouth-wateringly, addicting but with so much other food to eat to nourish and fuel my diet, there really isn't much of a place for cookies in my diet.
So I treat myself to a cookie or two during the holidays.
And same with any indulgence - on occasion.
With no guilt, anxiety or fear involved.
Cookies around the holidays just taste different because they have a different meaning. Yes, even homemade cookies can be unhealthy as they are packed with sugar but I assure you that nothing bad is going to happen to me if I eat one gingerbread cookie here or there over the holidays. The cookie is savored and enjoyed and it doesn't threaten me in any way.
My tomorrow diet and exercise regime is not affected because of one cookie. 

And yes, I can stop at one cookie because I have not deprived myself of cookies, sugar or sweets for the past week, let alone the last year. After many former years of understanding my biological hunger and learning how to fuel properly as an endurance triathlete, as well as working on my relationship with food and my body, I just see food differently than ever before (and probably different than much of the population - I have to thank my European for a lot of this).
And to the surprise and disbelief of many low-carb proponents, I eat plenty of carbohydrates to fuel my workouts and still don't have sugary cravings. 

If Karel buys pastries, ice cream (aka frozen recovery bars according to Karel), chips or some type of dessert (he has the sweet tooth but because he never deprives himself, he doesn't eat too much in one sitting), it doesn't bother me.
I can be in the house with all of these "sugary" items, eat my normal diet of carbohydrates, fat and protein and be fine with all of those items without the hint of wanting to indulge.
 Added sugar, sweets and treats don't really make up a big part of my diet. After so much real food, there really isn't a lot of room left for added sugar.
When the body is satisfied, it doesn't ask for more.

This relationship with food and style of eating was not created overnight. I assure you of that.
When I work with athletes on nutrition, I always address their relationship with food and the body as this can not be overlooked in athletes.
For me, in an effort to not feel obligated to follow a diet fad, to have an off limit food list or to intentionally try to control blood sugar and cravings through a low carb diet, I felt inclined to understand my body (as an athlete) and create a style of eating that worked for me so that food didn't control my life, but instead enhanced my life.

This took time but seeing how I have lived my life over the past few years, it was so worth it.
(I really do love carbs and I'm so glad I never had to give them up).

Food habituation demonstrates than when a person is allowed to eat a food, the less desirable it becomes. But certainly this can get people in trouble as a formally forbidden food, that is now allowed, can be too good to resist.

If you have an off-limit food list or you have been trying to be "good" by avoiding certain foods and you want to see if you can be good with eating only one cookie, there is a good chance that you will likely overindulge.....if you don't have a good relationship with food. And the added worry that you will overindulge, alongside ineffective eating habits (like restricting calories or carbs, skipping meals/snacks or not controlling blood sugar with protein and fat with meals and snacks), may cause anxiety when you are introduced to a food at home or at a party/event, that you have been previously once avoiding. 

This is no way to live your life.
Food is suppose to enhance your life, not control your life. 

You have to trust yourself around food.
Food should not give you anxiety, fear or stress.

If this speaks loudly to you, the first thing you need to work is having a great relationship with food and your body.  

Especially with the holidays, your day should not revolve around how good you can be with your diet  and exercise routine so that you are "allowed" to eat dessert at your holiday meal.
Or, spending the evening with the thought of how much you need to exercise tomorrow because of the bad food that you ate the night before. 

Whereas many people will claim that they feel no cravings on a restricted diet when carbohydrates are reduced, minimized or avoided all together, you don't have to live your entire life with an off-limit food list.
 I know how many people in our society eat and a typical diet is far from healthy.
You know that too. 
Avoiding carbohydrates is not the answer.
Address the real problem - what kind of carbohydrates were people eating in the first place in a "typical" breakfast, lunch and dinner + snacks diet AND was there enough protein and fat to keep the body satisfied and to control blood sugar? 

The next time you are presented with a dessert, take one bite. Savor the bite, enjoy the bite and be done with it. If you need two more bites, so be it.
Afterward, move on.

Happy Holidays. 

I give you permission to eat carbohydrates.
Just do so in a way that you feel absolutely amazingly great AFTER you finish your meal.