I have been craving nachos and bagels with cream cheese for almost two weeks straight. “Why didn’t I just go get some?” you might ask, which is a very legitimate question. I have a very convoluted and distorted past with my thoughts and actions regarding food and there are still some areas where I struggle with my food. The choice between should, need and want is something I still struggle with on a daily basis. Should I eat a bagel? Nope, that’s like 3 slices of bread and I should not eat that. Do I need that bagel? Nope, it’s going to throw off my whole eating plan for the day, which is less carbs and more protein. But, do I want a bagel? You bet your ass I do. I’ve been thinking about bagels for weeks. I’ve written about bagels and their odd emotional connection to me, but denying myself food that I really want/need does not just end at bagels. Things that I deem “unhealthy” or “bad choices” usually fall into my “I’m craving this” category, but I will deny myself them because they are on the bad list.
I try work through this thought process every day when I crave a food. First, I examine why I’m craving the food I am. Let’s talk about nachos, since I’ve been talking to my sister about Southern Sun nachos for weeks. They simply make the best and my favorite nachos. Black beans, cheddar cheese, guacamole, salsa and crisp corn chips; basic but oh so delicious. Paired with one of their gorgeous beers, and you’ve got yourself a pretty great meal. So, I’ve been craving these nachos for weeks. Why? Well, they’re good, obviously from my description I enjoy them. I especially like that they’re salty, because I try to be careful about the amount of salt I eat, so salted corn chips are a treat. The cheddar cheese is also a treat, as I eat pretty limited dairy. Southern Sun nachos are my exception.
Second, is there something else going on? Am I exceptionally tired? Am I stressed out? Have a exercised hard? These are all reasons why I would crave salt and cheese. Being tired and stressed are triggers for me to eat things I would not normally choose. Exercising hard, especially after really long runs leads me to crave salt, probably from all the electrolytes I’ve lost.
Third, if I have determined that something else is going on, then I start asking myself if I really want to eat nachos. Will it make me feel better physically, mentally, to eat this plate of nachos? How will I feel when I’m done? Will my body feel better or worse after eating nachos? Generally, I feel worse after consuming copious amounts of dairy. Digestives can only help you out so much when you’re a lac-tard. If I’ve realized that my cravings are stemming from stress or fatigue related issues, I might decide that I will eat something else. These craving stem from something negative and I have worked hard to not associate food with negative thoughts.
The fourth step is the most important one for me and often the one I spend the least amount of time on. Sometimes, I just want to eat a plate of nachos. Sometimes, I want to eat a giant bagel with cream cheese. Sometimes, I want to eat cheese and suffer. The point is, sometimes I just want to eat things and that is all right. Food should not be placed in categories of “bad” or “good”. “Healthy” or “unhealthy”. Whatever the words are, foods don’t need to be placed in a dichotomy, pitted against each other. They should be viewed as a spectrum, with one side being things I would choose more frequently and other things I would choose less. That way, nothing is off limits and isn’t viewed in a negative way. It’s simply a choice off a vast spectrum of food.
This morning, I woke up, after feeling a bit emotional last night. I was feeling pretty down about my hand/elbow injury and the very slow progress I have made towards recovery. After an early work meeting, I drove over to one of my favorite bagel places and got myself a damn bagel with cream cheese. I brought it home and enjoyed it on my couch. Even though I recognized that I had been tired and stressed the night before, I also acknowledged that I simply just wanted a bagel. And why not? Why not treat myself to food that I enjoy? What’s the worst that can come from eating one bagel? I’m not going to gain 10 pounds over night. My jeans will still fit tomorrow. Most importantly, I have made a conscious and healthy choice in regards to my food. Four years ago, I would have denied myself that bagel forever and never gotten one. Or I would have eaten some poor, lower calorie equivalent to what I really wanted, but wasn’t nearly as satisfying. Today, I am not that person. I have a choice. I will eat what I want. I will eat what I need.
Be well & happy eating!