A few weeks ago, my sweet husband took me out for ice cream. One of our favorite date night activities is eating food and ice cream is no exception. It’s hands down my favorite dessert, and it’s pretty high up there for him, too.
However, along with my ice cream affinity, I’ve got a pretty snobby, picky attitude towards ice cream, too. I don’t like generic grocery store brands, I stick up my nose at pretty much everything soft-serve, and if it has “vanilla” in the name, I won’t touch it. I’m all-chocolate, all-coffee, and all about the sweet, rich & decadent. Hand-dipped is where it’s at, and I guarantee I’ve tried every local creamery in a 15 mile radius of my house.
All that being said, I ordered something out of the ordinary one of the last times we went out – regular moose tracks. (Now, I’d like to point out that extreme moose tracks is one of my favorite flavors. For those of you who don’t know, the extreme version is made with chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla.) I was craving extreme moose tracks, but this creamery didn’t have any. They didn’t even have anything close. So, I branched out and ordered the regular, knowing that I don’t really like vanilla.
So, what happened?
I didn’t like it. But I ate it anyway.
I wished that I’d ordered something chocolate like usual. I like chocolate. I don’t like vanilla. And I know this about myself.
Soon, I noticed that I was having all sorts of strange thoughts running through my head. I was questioning myself, wondering things like:
- If I eat this dessert and don’t enjoy it, is it a waste of calories?
- If I don’t love it, should I eat it at all?
- I’ll never be satisfied if the food isn’t satisfying, right?
- Sugar isn’t really healthy, so I should at least enjoy it!
I recognized what my brain was doing, and I caught a wave of sanity amid all my questioning and told my mind to cool it. Then, I ate as much of the ice cream as I could before it melted.
See, contrary to the many messages we receive in the media, eating dessert isn’t harmful. Desserts themselves aren’t even harmful. Sugar is not inherently bad, dessert is not dangerous, we don’t need to be afraid of regular food. Likewise, not every eating experience is a mind-blowing pleasure. Sometimes, food is just regular. And that’s okay!
Sure, I was a little disappointed that my ice cream wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be. But guess what? I still enjoyed the conversation and walk with my husband, and we had a wonderful time together on a beautiful summer evening. I still honored my hunger and fullness cues, and even the ice cream itself was enjoyable. It just wasn’t my all-time favorite! I didn’t mysteriously gain weight because the dessert I ate wasn’t my #1 choice. (Actually, I can’t confirm/deny this because I don’t weigh myself…but my clothes still fit exactly the same.) I also didn’t spontaneously develop diabetes, I didn’t binge eat, I didn’t even feel uncomfortably full.
The ice cream was just a dessert, like any other dessert I eat, ever. When dessert feels normal, eating new things (or unsatisfying things) doesn’t derail me. I can remember when I was terrified of dessert, and eating something I didn’t love would a) cause a binge, b) cause me to restrict the next day, or c) both.
After this (depressing) ice cream episode, I got over it, moved on with my night, and woke up the next morning to eat breakfast like usual. It was a completely regular eating experience, and I’m so grateful that I have those, now.