Around the Bend by Jessie Raymond: I'd rather not scream for ice cream
Gone are the days when I could eat all I wanted without gaining weight. (For you youngsters still scarfing down pizza and beer with abandon, enjoy it now; eventually those calories count double.)
I don’t subscribe to any particular diet plan, other than the one where you move more and eat less. It’s not flashy. It doesn’t have a spokesperson, no one delivers pre-packaged meals to your door, and it doesn’t result in weight loss so dramatic your dog doesn’t recognize you. But it works.
Without a list of good/bad foods or a strict daily menu, however, it’s hard to tell if you’ve “gone off” your diet. You just have to eat in moderation and focus consistently on healthy foods. Forever.
This, of course, stinks.
It all comes down to willpower, a word I’ve heard defined as “remembering what you want.” This is true, when you remember that you want to fit into last summer’s clothes. But when you’re cranky and starving at 3:30, it’s tough to remember anything except where you stashed the potato chips.
I struggle most with willpower when it comes to dessert, which my scale insists should be an occasional treat, not a nightly ritual. I’ve tried a no-desserts policy, but it typically lasts no more than three hours, during which time I think: No dessert tonight. That’s right. No dessert. What am I not having tonight? Dessert. Dessert. Dessert.
And then I have it.
Instead, I eat dessert now and then and look for ways — short of going to bed at 6 p.m. — to avoid caving to temptation the rest of the time.
Distraction works for some people, particularly those willowy waifs who claim they sometimes “forget to eat.” Is this a real thing? I have never forgotten to eat. If I were being beamed up into a spaceship, I’d be grasping for cookies as I got sucked out the kitchen window.
Diet experts suggest simply not bringing treats into the house. Good luck getting the family on board with that. My husband, Mark, in particular, has a fondness for ice cream every night after dinner. While he knows only too well the effects of a slowing metabolism in middle age, being male he doesn’t worry much. He can drop 5 pounds merely by not eating a Snickers bar.
But keeping a supply of sweets in stock for him is too enticing for me. If I buy him premium ice cream, I find myself making excuses to go to the freezer. (“Now where could that electric bill be? In here?”)
Luckily, I’ve landed on a compromise, courtesy of my inner food snob. I buy a half-gallon of mediocre ice cream (and by a half-gallon I mean 1.5 quarts, which is how grocery math works these days) that is not yummy enough to tempt me. All I have to do is read the lid — “Made with chocolate-like brown-colored flecks!” — and I can convince myself that it’s not worth the calories.
If I do want to treat myself, I’ll spring for something better. Last week, for instance, I brought home a pint of heaven known as Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra, “a core of soft caramel encircled by chocolate and caramel ice creams and fudge chips.”
(I just drooled a little on the keyboard.)
After dinner that night, I waited a polite amount of time, perhaps 40 seconds, before suggesting we have dessert. Heaven ensued, and the resulting pleasure satisfied me for days.
But I got to thinking: Was it fair to relegate Mark to eating second-rate ice cream most of the time just so I didn’t have to be teased by the good stuff night after night?
I didn’t think he cared. Me, I go on and on about butterfat content and texture; as far as I can tell he pretty much just sticks ice cream in his mouth hole and likes it. But I thought I should check.
So the next night I said, “Boy, that Karamel Sutra was amazing, wasn’t it? A lot better than the junk I usually buy, right?”
He shrugged. “I didn’t notice.”
This meant I could continue to bring lesser ice cream into the house regularly, appeasing his sweet tooth without giving in to my own.
It would be a lot easier if I could just summon the willpower necessary to resist dessert altogether. But let’s face it: As long as Ben & Jerry’s continues to make Karamel Sutra, that is never going to happen.