24 January 2012

Sugar. And Chocolate. The New Gateway Drugs.

So we're about through with the first month of 2012 - 2012 being the year I really focus on cleaning up my act nutrition-wise. It's not that I've always eaten badly (compared to a vast swath of America, my diet is probably A-OK), but there's always room for improvement. Let's start with the bad - the really, really bad. My insatiable sweet tooth. If it is covered in chocolate, I will eat it - not only will I eat it, I will crave it - and I won't eat it in small quantities either. Let's not count the number bags of chocolate chips I've gone through this year... Soooo, cat is out of the bag - I'm still enjoying sweets in 2012, for now at least. I'm worried that if I start denying myself certain foods now, I'll be so tired of a rigid diet come April that I will just crack and go wild. Closer to race season/the A-races, the level of consumption will have to go down, otherwise I will be in trouble. This is going to take a lot of self-control on my part and Mr. Sweetie (my husband's new moniker on this blog) will probably have to go all TSA on me and search my purse for bags of chocolate before I enter the house. I'm actually searching for recipes that will be a suitable replacement for all things chocolate so I will have something to fall back on when my sweet tooth calls - I would love to hear any recommendations. I actually found a yummy apple/cranberry pudding dessert that has no added sugar and is super easy to make.
Then there is cheese. And bread. I usually go straight for these things in the evenings when I get home from work (the hour between getting home from work and sitting down to dinner is definitely my weakest time of day). I've done a decent job at limiting my consumption of cheese and crackers/baguettes to the weekend and, even then, not going overboard. Moderation. I've also been trying to replace these sorts of things with bananas with almond butter or apples with cinnamon when the urge to snack strikes.
I've been baking alot, but most of what I bake gets given away, so I don't think the baking is much of a problem.
The real challenge this year will be when race season arrives. I'm throwing this out there in an attempt to garner some peer pressure - the diet will be cleaned up FOR REAL come April. What does this mean? It means fruits, vegetables, whole grains. No processed foods. I want to say "no recreational sugar" from April until after Ironman July 22nd but that is a tall order. However, it seems like a waste to be putting all this effort into swimbikerun and strength training and getting enough sleep and to only commit to 90% healthy eating. Maybe just no recreational sugar in July. I know it is all about balance and it's probably doubtful that a little bit of recreational sugar will wreck my race. But I also know that if I give myself an inch, I'll take a mile. It's all or nothing. Once I start down that slippery slope of one Lindt chocolate, suddenly my desk at work will be covered in colorful wrappers in the span of 10 minutes (you think I kid - just ask my co-worker two doors down whose candy jar I raided yesterday).
If anyone out there has any hints at all about conquering sweets cravings, I am all ears.


Em said...

I see no problem with bread and cheese :-) Baguette and brie (or boursin...or chevre...) gets me every time too! And my philosophy is that a little chocolate is okay - it keeps you sane and happy. But if you want a "feel good" chocolate bar - try the Ghiradelli dark with sea salt and almonds. I've convinced myself it's delicious and healthy :-)

Catharine said...

You crack me up! Gateway drugs...hahaha.

In all seriousness, I do have a few ideas. First, why do you think you eat so much chocolate? You seem like a really disciplined person. Not to get all psychologist on you, but perhaps you need to think about the cause of the binging.

Like you, I don't believe it total deprivation. When I deny myself sugar, I dream about it. It is wacky!

Personally, I like your 90% plan. I try to aim for around an 80/20 myself.

Another key, as you've acknowledged, is portion control. The question is how to do that. Can you portion yourself out a shot glass full of chips and walk away? In other words, no more eating out of the bag. Can Mr. Sweetie (love it!)help with this? I generally don't like it when a spouse is the food police, but maybe it would work.

Could you allow yourself chocolate on Sundays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays?

It sounds like you're on the right track thinking of good substitutions. How about a cup of hot chocolate? You could get your fix in something (theoretically)takes a while to consume. And if you use milk, you get a little boost of nutrition.

How about making yourself accountable to the world. I used to track my intake on Fitday and they had a feature where you could make your log public. Would that be an effective deterrant? Or would just logging your food make you conscious enough about your eating to help control yourself?

My final thought is about reducing the cravings. Are you eating enough at night? Are you getting enough protein? If you had a big dinner, do you still want a whole bag of chocolate chips?

Okay, I think my comment is as long as your post :) In the end, I'm wondering if this is *really* a problem. I think you're an amazing athlete and you are in good shape. You have one vice. Is it really standing in the way of your goals or do you just feel bad about it? Maybe just cut yourself a break...

Damon Taaffe said...

I have pretty strong views on this, but what I'd prescribe is pretty tough medicine. Basically, I've found that the way to go about it is a month-long "purifying" diet that eliminates not only all refined food, including sugar (yes, chocolate), but also all caffeine and all wheat -- no bread, no crackers, none of it. No soda, no beer. No eating after dinner. Water and tea are key. Vegetables, limited quantities of fruit, sweet potatoes, and lean meats are the way to go. I find that going "all-in" is actually a lot easier than just trying to cut back, because as you say, it's very hard to eat just one. But the bigger thing I've found is that, if you can survive a month of this -- which is a do-able, concrete goal -- you'll find that you don't have the cravings you're used to. Your tastes will change in subtle ways, and you may find that you just decide to continue eating that way indefinitely. This is exactly what I did last year, and it made a huge difference in my health and performance.

onthebusrunning said...

Great post! I never knew that sugar could be "recreational." Guess you're a recreational drug user :)

I'm trying to clean up as well as you've heard, but it can be tough and easy to justify the slips.

Keep at it.

Caroline said...

@Emily, thanks for the recommendations, I'll definitely be checking that chocolate bar out :)

@Cat - Thanks for the awesome response. I think the cause is... the fact that I love chocolate. I also tend to binge on it when I get home from work and I'm hungry and I just want something immediate and fast to satisfy me (enter: chocolate chip bags). I tend to have something sweet every day, but I try to limit it to after dinner dessert, some days I'm good at it, some days not so much. I think a food log would DEFINITELY help - I've not made the conscious choice to be disciplined enough to keep a log for very long, but I noticed that when I did, I definitely didn't do any mindless eating or splurging if I had to write it down! It helps to be held accountable.

@Damon - your suggestion is definitely something to consider. I'm not a big meat eater, so that would probably have to change, but I am all about trying to cut out the refined, processed foods. I'll keep your idea on the table. I've seen what an awesome breakthrough year you had in 2011 and diet was probably a relevant factor I am sure.

@Brad - sugar and chocolate are my drugs of choice. Need to cut back. Need to find the willpower. I know it is there, I just need to make the choice and choose to stick with it, simple really.