Keep Your Treats a Treat and Live Cravings Free
Jon and I eat dessert every day after dinner -- and after lunch too, on the weekends. We eat dark chocolate, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and nuts, and we always switch up our ingredients so the plates never get boring.
Another option we sometimes include is oatmeal, with dates and bananas cooked in (this is usually made for breakfast, but it's also delicious as a "cookie" after lunch or dinner). We never buy packaged or processed desserts or snacks. It's just not part of our lifestyle. Since we only keep natural ingredients in our house, we don't have to resist dessert because we only have healthy options on hand.
I believe in preparing all of your food yourself. But that doesn’t mean you should go and bake cookies! In fact, we don't even have any sugar, butter, or milk in our pantry (and DEFINITELY no artificial/calorie-free sweetener, because that's even worse). And to be honest, I haven’t missed a single one of those ingredients in the kitchen over the last five years since we did away with them. My go-to's are dried figs and dates -- they're just as sweet as any cookie or brownie, and much more nutritious.
When we do treat ourselves to dessert the way most people define it, it has to be spectacular. It happens so rarely and we don't want to feel the least bit guilty when we indulge.
It has to be 100% worth it.
I can actually remember some of the best desserts over the last few years: a tres leches at the Palm Beach Grill, a homemade apple pie served at Thanksgiving dinner, and the delicious slice of rich, chocolate cake from our Valentine’s Day celebration this year (the "Annual Cake Slice," as Jon put it).
In Jon's post, he talks a lot about food cravings. I sort of remember having cravings for certain foods a few years ago, but I haven't experienced any of late. Thinking back now, I remember in college when I used to feel I absolutely needed a bag of potato chips -- and the thought wouldn’t leave my mind until I had it. But the thought of potato chips doesn't sound appetizing anymore -- most certainly due to the fact that Jon and I have completely revamped how we eat.
When you go out to eat and say, have a delicious piece of cake that you haven't in many months, the flavors will overcome you. This is because when you eat clean, healthy foods, your palette is pure -- and so the experience you have when you eat these highly-potent foods is all the more intense. If you read Michael Moss' book, Salt Sugar Fat, then you know what I'm referring to. Moss points out, for example, that eating just a slice of bread may be likened to taking a hit of cocaine (due to the roller-coaster blood sugar fluctuation). So imagine when you add sugar and fat to that same wheat: quite a dangerous combination.
Jon and I avoid eating out because the additives restaurants use to prepare even simple dishes are out of control. That's why you experience such a high (at least if you're not normally used to eating that food) when you go there...and hence, want to return. But when you end up eating this type of food on the regular, your brain becomes compromised -- like a drug addict's -- and can no longer gauge how much food to take in, which leads to over-eating. Basically, the powerful (and unnatural) stimuli you receive from the food overrides your natural biological inclination to stop eating when you're full.
In his post, Jon talked about the after-effects of what happens when you indulge in a "special" dessert. No matter who you are, or how much willpower you have, you're going to be thinking about those amazing tastes in the days after. But if you're on a good diet most of the time, those cravings will dissipate more quickly. Problems start to arise when you're having this type of food more often.
The point is that you should start to become aware of what is causing your food cravings -- and start to eliminate those foods from your diet. You need to pay attention to how you feel in the hours, and days, after you eat certain foods. Your goal should be to design a diet that eliminates as many cravings as possible -- because nobody can beat food cravings, no matter how strong you are. You need to "beat" (remove) the foods that cause them.
Definitely indulge in decadent dessert every once in a while -- after all, you gotta live sometimes. But make it an occasion. A special evening to treat yourself. And then go all out.
Then go back to a normal diet that's working for you. And stick to it. That's the only way to stay healthy, fit, and feeling good (without cravings) in the long run.