I don’t know about you, but there are times when I must have ice cream. I don’t let myself indulge in it very often – once every month or two – and we don’t keep any in the freezer at home. In addition, I’ve set certain rules for my ice cream consumption – when I do indulge, it’s not just any old, run-of-the-mill ice cream. It has to be something special, like homemade or prize-winning. On vacation this summer, my partner and I drove 30 miles just to sample the “Best Ice Cream in Maine.”
I come from an ice-cream-loving family. Summer evenings in Pittsburgh still make me nostalgic to jump in the car with my family and drive to Isaly’s or Bishop’s. We all had our special favorites at specific ice cream venues – mine was always a butter pecan cone or a butterscotch sundae. (You see the “butter” theme.)
Given my own response to this treat, I wasn’t surprised by this article in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about food addiction. Certain foods – like ice cream, which combines the irresistible sweet and fat – do trigger addictive behavior. And we know from research that food manufacturers and fast-food restaurants play off those addictive qualities. This also explains why some clients have trouble losing weight, because they can’t seem to overcome the desire for foods that pack on the pounds. More and more, I realize I could have used a degree in psychology to help some of those clients best.
There are resources for people with eating disorders, such as bingeing and compulsive overeating. But what if your addiction is to a specific food or, say, to sweets in general? Do you have to have something sweet every day?
With sugar, as with drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, it’s good to go cold turkey. Can you try for a day not having any sugary foods? A week? If you can do that, can you go for two weeks? How long can you last? Can you remove all sugar-containing foods from the house to support your detox? Can you enjoy a piece of fruit when the sugar craving kicks in? Can you get family members and friends on board, so they don’t serve you sugary desserts?
When you gradually add treats back into your diet, make them few and special. If your weakness is pie, enjoy a homemade slice at a restaurant or, better yet, share it with a friend. Find the “Best Ice Cream in ___” on vacation, and savor a single scoop. Not all treats are created equal, and, in this case, learning to discriminate is actually a good thing.