Once upon a time, when I was a pudgy, cuddly little girl, my brother announced: "Kelly doesn't eat to live, she lives to eat." He was making fun of me but I agreed, and I still identify with that rule, but here's the problem—I don't know if I want to be someone who lives to eat anymore.
I've identified dessert with happiness for so long that introducing the idea of dessert not making me happy is just bizarre and I don't like it. I want happiness to be as easy as licking the last bits of chocolate frosting off the plate, but that happiness only lasts a minute or so and it's followed by disappointment, confusion, and an upset stomach.
Chocolate birthday cake . . .
In September I went home for my birthday. I was so excited to go home and eat the traditional Pierce-household birthday cake (yellow cake with chocolate frosting and M&Ms) that I was counting down the days. When I got home, I ate cake for dinner, then woke up and ate cake for breakfast. 2,000 calories consumed later, I felt so sick I couldn't even look at food for 12 straight hours.
M&M cookies . . .
The same thing happened when I went home for Christmas. I prepared beforehand, eating at a calorie deficit, dreaming of all the things I wanted to bake. I got home, baked (and ate half the batter in the process), stuffed my face with cookies, cake, and ice cream for 5 straight days, and spent Christmas night writhing in stomach pain, which lasted for another 36 hours.
Rocky Road ice cream . . .
My lesson was still not learned. For Valentine's Day this year, I used it as an excuse to take a day off from my diet plan and go to a chocolate lounge with my boyfriend. I spent the week looking at the menu, going from the Death by Chocolate cake to the Brownie Sundae to the waffles—Oh, the decision was so difficult! I only had one chance to make the right one.
When the day arrived, I woke up realizing that I didn't even care to go. I wasn't hungry, I didn't want to waste my calories for the day on cake, and frankly, I couldn't remember why I wanted to go in the first place. So, we didn't go. But as the day went on, my ego was disappointed. It wanted cake. I said Fine, let's do this.
We went to the chocolate lounge that afternoon. I ordered a Rocky Road Sundae with a shot of chocolate on the side. I don't remember tasting it. I just remember spooning it into my mouth thinking, "I'm happy because I told myself this would make me happy and here I am doing it." I scraped bits of chocolate out from the bottom of the bowl and forced it into my mouth, even though my stomach was crying out in pain: "Please, no more! I can't handle it!"
As my boyfriend and I walked out of the chocolate lounge, we looked at each other.
"Well, how was that?" my boyfriend asked.
"I regret it," I said.
"Me too," he agreed.
What I've slowly realized, and what my ego still fights me on every day, is that eating dessert does not make me happy. I don't live for it. It's not nearly as exciting as I've convinced myself it is. I also can't deny that I overeat as a way to fight boredom, but that's a separate post for another time.
If not dessert,
what could I possibly live for?
The happiness I feel when I put a spoonful of ice cream into my mouth lasts for 30 seconds, and almost always follows with emptiness. When I finish a tube of Smarties (UK Smarties, not USA Smarties, FYI), my initial thought is "Aw, it's over, this sucks!" but if you gave me an endless supply of Smarties, I will eat until I'm sick and writhing in pain on the ground.
That's not worth living for, if you ask me. That promise of cake after finishing my homework was all the motivation I needed when I was 13, but now it's nothing.
Now, I live for the moments of pure happiness that are the result of hard work and dedication. The moments finishing a healthy meal that fits my macros and feeling full, not sick, and the moments lifting a personal record of weight in the gym. The moments of looking at myself in the mirror and going, "Damn, I have muscle!" These moments last for much longer than 30 seconds and they never end with a sore stomach.
I eat to live and live to eat
. . . can I say that?
I still love food. I still want to treat myself with dessert and I'm always wondering what the next meal will be. But, this whole macro-tracking thing I've been doing adds a challenge. I have to find foods I enjoy eating but also fit the amount of protein, carbs, and fat I can have for the day. I need a healthy balance of macronutrients and micronutrients. Some days I might not be craving what my body needs, but I eat those foods anyway. For example, I might not want to eat chicken but I need protein for the day, so I will either suck it up and eat chicken or I'll figure out a different way to get protein in, like chocolate protein powder mixed in baked oats.
When I am able to fit the foods I want to eat into my daily caloric-intake, I won't feel sick, guilty, or depressed after eating them. I can eat ice cream, I can eat cake, but I need to make sure I'm not overeating and that I'm compensating for the rest of the protein, carbs, and fat I need for that day.
Once you get into a rhythm of tracking what you eat, it gets easier. Overall, you'll just feel better about yourself and your stomach won't be mad at you all the time. If you're interested in learning how to track or what the heck macronutrients are, check out these posts: How to Track Macros and The Importance of Macros. I hope these help!