Doughnuts on the kitchen table, a coworker’s candy bowl, cookies at a local meeting, we have all been in situations where food is present and for no apparent reason we become transfixed on that food until we have some. I won’t even necessarily be hungry, but if someone brings in doughnuts for the office, my mouth will begin to salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs in anticipation of the sweet, doughy goodness. This is only part of the toxic and ever present food environment that we live in now.
Three instances from the past week will help to illustrate this phenomenon in a more concrete way.
- A coworker brought in doughnuts (seeing the theme here) for the department and decided to leave the box on my desk for people to snack on. I had already had my morning meal and was about to have my mid-morning snack (almonds), so I wasn’t really hungry, but as soon as the doughnuts showed up I was thinking about having one. I was able to put them out of my mind, have my snack, and focused on my work, but every now and then I would think about the doughnuts. After I got my morning coffee an hour later I moved them into the break room and ten minutes later they were gone.
- Went into the break room to have my afternoon snack (low-fat cottage cheese) and someone had left a package of cookies on one of the tables for people to eat. I looked at the package, thought about what I had eaten that day and started to justify how I could have one and it be all right, I opened the packed ready to grab one, and then knew if I had one then, I would eat it, my cottage cheese, and then have another one after. In that instant I knew it was easier for me to just not have a cookie then try to only have one, I was able to close the package and have my cottage cheese and then flee the break room.
- On Monday we had a department lunch (I feel like I work with the foodiest people ever) of pizza. We do this every couple of months and I have told everyone I am on a diet so I don’t partake of the pizza, plus what I have found out about myself is that I do not like pizza that much and in true fashion I was able to sit in the luncheon and not partake and not think about the pizza at all. I had no craving for it and didn’t even think twice about not having any.
In my cravings, what I have learned about myself is that I have a sweet tooth and if I am going to indulge or think about food it almost always is going to be sweet things. For Alex, she loves savory food, and doesn’t really give in to sweets too often (though she does have chocolate every day, in moderation). What has become easier as this whole lifestyle has progressed is controlling cravings and understanding that I don’t need to indulge all the time, plus having a free day where I can eat the way I want helps tremendously. On the day with the cookies, I told myself that if I really wanted a cookie I would wait till Saturday and then go to this really good cookie store in SF. That was the other thing about those cookies, they were safeway store bought cookies, and even though I really wanted to eat it in that instance, in the back of my head I knew it was not going to be as good as I had built it up in my head.
The point on that one being that if you are going to splurge make sure you get the good stuff, because there is no sense in wasting the calories on something that isn’t exactly what you want. Most of these ideas are being formed from a book I am currently reading called The End of Overeating. I am only about halfway through, but it has already been enlightening, and I think I will do another blog post just on that book and its main message. But it has opened my eyes to how I crave things and some ways of getting around those involuntary hunger pangs. At the end of the day we should all try to become more aware of what are bodies (and brains) are telling us and just remember, half the time your brain is telling you you’re hungry, but your body isn’t.
It is really interesting to see how you prioritize food when you are on such a strict diet. As Nathaniel said – I eat chocolate nearly every day.
I buy dark chocolate chips like you would use to bake cookies with and keep them in the fridge. I never eat more than 100 calories worth in a day and the bag lasts weeks.
While I do love chocolate the main reason I have chosen chocolate chips is because they are really easy to portion out. If I am getting close to my calorie limit for the day and choose to put cheese on my omelet then I can count out half as many chips and still have a treat.
Nathaniel however is really the one with the sweet tooth. I am more into savory foods – I’d much rather have wonton soup or bacon than a doughnut. Pizza would distract me in a meeting to no end and I’d probably spend an hour arguing with myself about eating or not eating a slice. (I’ve done this.)
Another reason Nathaniel doesn’t “daily cheat” the way I do is because once he gets started he knows it’s going to be hard to stop at just one cookie or one doughnut.
The other day I ate the crème filling out of a cookie and tossed the cookie part. I don’t want the cookie part and eating it just doesn’t make sense if I don’t like it. Nathaniel thought I was insane…
My most common cravings are wonton soup and meat… and I’ll explain.
Wonton soup is much healthier for you than Ramen and I can actually eat it during the week without breaking my calorie allotment if I’ve run more than 3 miles.
I actually crave wonton soup more than any other singular food item because I know I can eat it and feel full after the indulgence.
Meat is another story – Nathaniel and I are mostly vegetarians during the week but I grew up in a more meat heavy household than he did (his mother is a vegetarian).
Sometimes I think back to those delicious grilled steaks in huge portions my Dad gave me growing up and I really miss being able to eat a half-pound of really nicely grilled beef without guilt. Fried chicken is eaten for dinner about once a week in my parents’ house. Dad cooks bacon everyday and meatloaf, carnitas, chorizo, bbq, roast beef, prime rib, salmon, shrimp and roast chicken were all on heavy rotation during my childhood.
My parents cook delicious meat and that’s probably one of the reasons this is the thing I miss most. Meat, unless we are talking about the leanest of seafood is just not calorically efficient for it’s volume which is the main reason I’ve kept pretty vegetarian M-F.
Today I put a half cup of shrimp in my egg white omelet for dinner and even with cheese my dinner was only 330 calories.
Nathaniel’s Mom baked a lot and loves sweets so that’s probably one of the reasons he does too.
Nathaniel likes to spread jam on low calorie toast for a snack… I like to spread soft light swiss cheese (laughing cow).
When you are fighting your cravings it’s really interesting to think back to how you developed those food weaknesses.
If you could pick one food that would count at zero calories when you ate it in any amount what would you choose?