food for thought: how sweet it is

“food for thought” posts are my chance to share an opinion, an insight, or something to do with food–think nutrition, emotional eating, a recipe, you name it. 

The topic for today’s post came from a little realization I had on the weekend over a bowl of ice cream.

First things first, I know I’ve expressed my love for froyo before, but my true love has always been for ice cream.

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Me loving ice cream, circa 2007.

Love can be complicated, right? Ice cream (and froyo, for that matter) and I have a messy history.

I’d divide our relationship into a few phases:

  1. honeymoon: I love ice cream and ice cream loves me…I have never encountered the word “calorie.”
  2. guilty romance, part I: I love ice cream but am ashamed of it…I earn my ice cream with long runs and bike rides.
  3. guilty romance, part II: I am still in love and still ashamed…I make room for my ice cream by replacing meals with it.
  4. reality: I see ice cream for what it is (and I still like it)…I own my choices and where I’m at.

Each of these phases had their gift.

When I was oblivious to the world of nutrition, ice cream was just delicious and a special treat that my parents busted out now and again. Ignorance isn’t bliss, though, so I’m glad that I realize that ice cream is one of those “special” foods and not something I need on a daily basis to keep me going.

For a long time, I made myself work for ice cream (or any treat, for that matter). I justified my junk food habits by working them off–either anticipating a treat and making sure I did an extra hard workout, rewarding myself with a treat after a particularly gruelling day, or attempting to make up for an indulgence by sweating the crap out of it. While the idea of having some discretionary calories and making room for more of them if you work out is something that plenty of diet gurus support, this wasn’t a healthy headspace for me. Eventually, it dawned on me that eating junk food, regardless of how much you work out, still involves putting crap into your body. As I shifted my relationship with exercise from one based on controlling and fixing myself to one based on actually creating strength and fitness and health, my mindset on treats and indulgences started to shift. Rather than asking myself if I’d earned a treat or if I deserved it, I started to question whether or not I truly wanted it and if it deserved to go in my body, reminding myself that looking “healthy” and actually being it are very different things.

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More recently, I noticed that I was in a new phase. I was okay with not working out to earn myself a treat–I’d even go for froyo on a rest day, something I’d never have been able to do back in the day. But I realized that lately, I’ve been trying to justify things in a new way: by skipping a meal and/or replacing it with whatever treat I’m giving myself. Is a big ol’ scoop of ice cream for dinner healthier than a piece of salmon, a sweet potato, and some veggies followed by a small bowl of ice cream? Nope. But only if I got real about what I meant by “healthier.”  In the past, I’ve been so convinced that thinner, leaner, “fitter” looking is by definition “healthier” that my default setting was towards eating less and losing weight. The redefinition process is ongoing. I still grab the low fat yogurt and salad dressing off the shelves before I put them back and grab the real deal when I’m grocery shopping. I still sometimes catch myself overdoing it with exercise. But the shift is happening. In terms of ice cream and treats, redefining healthy has meant recognizing that ice cream has a place in my diet, but it’s place is not to provide me with real nutrition.

My vision of ideal health has room for ice cream. Does your definition of healthy? And does that match the ideal body that you picture coming from this notion of healthy? If those two don’t match, you’re likely in for the same kind of struggle I went through.

Getting real about my definition of health and expanding it to include more than just a certain weight, body composition, etc. has changed the way I live and taken me into that next stage: reality. If I prioritize my health and this new definition (based on actually taking care of myself and creating a healthy, fit, strong body) I realize that I need to eat real food first and foremost. If I want ice cream on top of that, awesome, but I still need the nutrition first. I don’t compromise the fact that I need to eat whole, nutrient dense foods for the sake of attempting to fit into my skinny jeans. This is about valuing my health.

In other words, this is about realizing on another level that you can’t uncrap a crappy choice. It’s about owning the fact that I might weigh 10lbs more than what someone says is “ideal” but knowing that I’m in a healthy place physically and mentally. That gives me permission to eat ice cream regardless of what it does to the size of my butt but it also places the responsibility on me to own that choice and the way my body looks as a result.

choices

This post is about ice cream, but the theme is way bigger than frozen desserts and food. Living in reality requires taking responsibility, but it’s an empowered place to be.

What’s your perspective on how dessert fits into a “healthy” diet?
How do you define healthy? 

Bonus: Here’s a link to a (much shorter than this) post that I read a while back from Nell Stephenson (Paleoista) that puts out a pretty firm opinion on the froyo as a meal habit

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Things to do when you can’t sleep

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…NOT. I am stressed. I know this for many reasons including the fact that I can’t sleep. For someone used to going to bed at 10:30 and waking up at 5:30, being awake at 2:30 (I tweeted to mark the time) is not ideal. I tossed and turned for a while and finally got hungry enough to just get up. I admittedly had a real coffee later than normal yesterday, but I think my mind racing had more to do with not being able to sleep. Eventually, I unset my alarm and got up, snacked, and worked on my take home exam/essay some more. Things to do besides worry about not being able to sleep:

  • read blogs
  • write in your journal
  • embrace the opportunity to have a true “midnight snack”
  • research wild trips you’ll likely never be able to go on—or find one you actually want to try! (I am particularly drawn to the semester long treks through NOLS)
  • finish the draft of an essay you’re worried about
  • read a book
  • paint your nails
  • clean
Those come from experience. Enjoy.

My midnight snack of choice was a boring bowl of greek yogurt that got more exciting when I added a spoonful of peanut butter. I think there’s a saying that a spoonful of peanut butter makes life complete? 😉 20120410-073052.jpg I almost repeated my morning snack, which was similar—greek yogurt with honey, cocoa, and a few Mini Eggs. I think my thoughts just caught up with me at night because I was going all day and didn’t have time for them to sink in or swirl around my head. After my morning post yesterday, I ended up spinning at the gym before heading to The Gazette. I ran into Nina and ended up eating lunch (turkey sandwich with leftover kale chips). I love seeing her, but realizing we are almost done this semester and that she might not be here next year makes me uber sad and reminds me of all the other good friends who are going to be friends from remote locations after this year :(! I worked for a bit but I started to get really anxious about my assignments so I went to the library. I saw Ellen, who has a knack for making me happier, and sat in the less stressful cafe part of the library where eating my afternoon granola bar wouldn’t piss everyone off and where my stress levels wouldn’t increase by association. 20120410-073032.jpg Afterwards, I went for a swim! Luckily I had company, otherwise I’d probably have bailed. I did a short set with more kicking than was originally planned to save my shoulder a bit of stress. It really didn’t hurt much, just felt tight, so I don’t know what to do. I have a massage (for my hip, mostly) on Thursday, but I think I’ll see if getting her to loosen up my oh so stressed back/neck/shoulders helps things out. I also have physio on Friday so I can bring it up there too! After the swim, I had dinner with Nina (spinach salad with leftover sweet potatoes, salmon, cranberries, and pecans) and after arming myself with Mini Eggs, we met Angela for a night of studying at Starbucks. Studying with friends makes me more likely to smile and not to go into tunnel vision about “never finishing this essay” or about “having nothing to do in the summer”—common worries for me during the final stretch here! So, even though it’s kind of a stressful time, I’m trying really hard to spend as much time with people as I can and to enjoy the last bit of time here! I had a few “OMG I AM SO GLAD I’M COMING BACK NEXT YEAR” moments yesterday. Not only does taking time to see people and to just slow down keep me sane and make me happy, it also is important since the semester is coming to an end and I’m realizing how much I’m going to miss these folks. And, tear. 20120410-073036.jpg This morning I woke up a little full from last night’s middle of the night snack, sad that I missed swim, but ready to get on with my day. I started things off with a few of my favourite things: cereal, coffee, and blogging. It’s on to working on my exam, trying to make it to campus, spinning, and teaching bootcamp. Busy is better than bored! Do you get stressed when things end/change? What do you do if you can’t sleep? What kind of trip would you go on if you had unlimited money and resources?  

Home stretch

In 3 days, this semester will be over! I only have one exam this semester and then I’ve got time off before summer school. Can’t wait is an understatement.

Yesterday was a productive day which didn’t feel much like Easter, except for the mini eggs I treated myself to for dessert. The Easter Bunny (my mother) delivered a family size bag on Saturday, so I put a decent amount in a container to last me a while and will take the rest to the Gazette office tomorrow to share with all the people who couldn’t make it home to obtain junk food from their families in the name of studying.

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Things started off with a pretty mundane breakfast.

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Then I spent a few hours at Starbucks (my version of the library), where I wrote Bonnie’s birthday post  and did a bit of homework while drinking copious amounts of coffee and snacking on an apple with nut butter.

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When my butt was numb, I headed home to go for a run. Of course I managed to time my 30 minute run for the middle of the hour when it rained…but running in the rain doesn’t bother me as long as I’m warm, and warm I was.

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Yeah, the point of the picture is to show off my new shoes–which match my running jacket! I love it when life coordinates itself. I also love wearing brand new shoes on a muddy trail. Liberating!

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After my 30 minutes of bliss, I got greedy with giving myself permission to have awesome breaks and went to yoga for an hour of sweaty awesomeness. The class was a power class but luckily for my shoulder, which came alive during the class, it wasn’t that tough but was more of a stretch.

I did manage to catch the lyrics to one of the instructor’s songs I love. I proceeded to google it, download it on iTunes, and listen to it on repeat for the rest of the day.

When I got home and showered, even though I’d had a second apple in the car on the way to yoga to tide me over after my run, I was ready for lunch so I tossed together leftover turkey, sweet potatoes, and a salad with cranberries and pecans.

It hit the spot! I went back to Starbucks (I have a problem) and I got down to work on my assignment due today. I finished most of it using plenty of decaf coffee as fuel. I also mowed down on a Kashi bar when my tummy started to talk to me.

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When I got home, I wanted something quick for dinner so I threw together stuff I had kicking around the fridge. I cooked beef and mushrooms and onions (oh red meat, I missed you…I felt a twinge of guilt but again, I’m trying to be more conscious about my meat choices and definitely am grateful to this cow), kale chips, and added some  leftover mashed potatoes to make a meal. Yum.

I finished up my assignment last night and headed to bed, expecting to fall asleep immediately. Instead, my mind raced until I let it all out in my journal. Lots on my mind…but at the end of the day I realized all I can do is do my best. Yes, it’s cheesy, but spending the day with me myself and I yesterday was awesome. It gave me the fuel I needed to write a personal essay about that topic—realizing that you come home to you at the end of the day and that you need to learn to be okay with that person first and foremost. Epiphany much. I’ll share that essay ASAP, as soon as it’s done serving it’s scholastic purposes.

And now it’s later than I thought it would be and I’ve checked breakfast and submitting my final portfolio for my writing class off the list. One of my courses is officially done, so that’s kind of a big deal.

Now I’m debating whether or not to head to the pool to attempt a swim with my shoulder. It’s fine but it I’m a bit anxious to swim since it likes to wake up during the middle of the day or a workout. Decisions…

How was your Easter?
Is school wrapping up for you?