The days when I used to feel guilty and upset with myself for eating ice cream are gone. What a relief!
I admit though: there are times when I try to find ways to ditch calories, but sometimes this “good” idea turns out to be the worst idea.
First of all, I don't think there's anything bad in wanting to eat a little bit lighter. Less sugar? Dressing on the side? These are ways to avoid unnecessary energy and I think that's totally fine.
While I don't count calories, I also don't go all out and eat everything and anything any time I please, because like most of us, I want to stay healthy and keep fitting into my clothes.
But sometimes trying to substitute calorie dense foods with low-calorie, low-fat or no-fat foods is not necessarily the best idea. In the worst case scenario, you end up eating more than you would have, had you had the full fat version.
A Tempting Zero Fat Dessert
Last week, I had a real craving for ice cream. It was warm and sunny outside, and it almost felt like summer, so a nice gelato sounded like a good idea.
Sometimes I like to combine my shopping trips with running, so I thought I'd run to Whole Foods, get my gelato, come home and enjoy it in the evening.
At the store, I was looking at all the options and tried to make up my mind about what flavor I was in the mood for, and then I saw this “frozen dessert”…
I have to admit that “150 calories a pint!” and “zero fat dessert” printed on the container caught my eye. It was tempting, especially next to super rich Ben & Jerry's that gives you four times as much energy and a ton of fat!
Even though I had bought this “frozen dessert” before and NOT liked it at all, I thought that maybe a different flavor would be better than the one I bought last time and decided to give it a go.
This Zero Fat Dessert Was Bad
As I got home, opened the container and dug in, I remembered exactly why had regretted buying it the last time.
It was bad, people. Sugar-free, fat-free, GMO-free and unfortunately, also taste-free. My zero fat dessert was a terrible failure.
Why did I buy the same thing when I knew it was bad?
Well, it just happens that it takes time to build new habits. If you've struggled with disordered eating habits, counted every calorie or point or whatever it is for a crazy long time, constantly worried about getting and staying skinny, those things are so deeply rooted in your mind that they come back even when you're in a much, much better place with your health and mindset now.
I tried to make this “dessert” taste better by adding some chocolate chips and drizzle it with some honey. Eventually, there were more chocolate chips than this “dessert” in my bowl. Nothing made it better.
And as I result, thanks to trying to spice this miserable thing up with various toppings, I probably ended up eating more and consuming more energy than I would have had I had a rich and creamy gelato that I was actually craving.
The Craving Was Still There
After finishing my bowl, I realized that it had done nothing to my craving. My craving for gelato was still there.
I'm not even sure why I'm surprised. This thing had happened to me before. I've tried to satisfy my craving for one particular thing to something lighter, skinnier, something that is lower in fat or fat free.
I've tried to have a weird mix of cacao powder, sugar and water when I was craving chocolate. I would eat that and after, a million other things, that often led to bingeing.
In the past, when I freaked out about butter, I'd use the lowest fat butter substitution I could find when I was baking.
Heck, I'd even put fat free milk in my coffee that didn't even change the color of the coffee.
None of those things tasted good. And low-fat margarine is definitely not health food–that's what I learned much later. Please check out my SMART Fats book to see why this is a bad idea.
Weird alternatives hardly ever satisfy you if you're craving rich dark chocolate or creamy gelato.
Why You Should Have a Gelato Instead of a Zero Fat Dessert
Well, I thought it was a good idea to get this zero fat frozen dessert, so that I could eat the whole pint and be happy and satisfied and fit and healthy.
Here's what happened instead:
- It was not fun to eat it, because it was tasteless and it had no creamy structure that you want from good ice cream.
- I had to add a ton of toppings on it, because I still wanted to be able to eat it! Chocolate chips didn't work, honey didn't make it better, coconut flakes were still just nah…
- I probably ended up eating more calories than I would have, had I eaten a regular, good rich gelato.
- My craving was still there.
- I wasted too much money on a uber healhy free-of-everything-bad “health food”.
Luckily, I made up for it a few days ago by getting this awesome gelato from Aloha Gelato. It was just what I needed. It needed absolutely no additions to it, and it actually satisfied my craving. It was just perfect and what I needed.
Bonus of eating the real thing? You end up eating less of it, because it's just more satisfying.
Not All Healthy Desserts are Bad
I don't think that all healthier or “healthified” desserts are bad. But I'm probably going to try a next one only if someone promises me that it's actually good.
There are ways to make most recipes healthier. For example, I substitute sugar with honey and sometimes stevia. And I think it's okay to make foods a bit healthier, like sneaking in veggies into brownies or muffins.
Not to mention leaving out sources of trans fats and subbing them with high quality fats.
But making any food fat-free and sugar-free usually turns out pretty taste-free as well. And a lot of times, it does nothing to your craving, but instead, makes you eat more.
Even though I'm in a way, way better place with my eating habits and disordered patterns are for the most part gone, there are patterns that show up again and again, because I've been living with them for so many years.
There's nothing wrong about having a rich and sweet dessert once in a while. Have your gelato if that's what you really want, and enjoy it absolutely guilt-free.