Attention Her Campus readers! Breaking news! As quoted directly from a trusted nutritionist: it’s okay to give in to your food cravings!
In my last article about healthy eating, Sargent Choice nutritionist Sarah Butler cautioned against looking at food as “eat this, not that.” But interestingly, Sarah also stresses the need for people to consider not only what is nutritious for their bodies, but what their bodies are telling them they want physically and emotionally. Sarah explains, “If you really want a bagel with cream cheese, an egg breakfast sandwich is not going to give you the same kind of satisfaction that your body is craving. It might have less calories, but it’s important to take what your body really wants into account.”
Sarah’s logic here makes sense. But if a nutritionist is telling me that it’s okay to enjoy a bowl of ice cream every once and a while, then why do I still feel guilty about it sometimes? The answer is hardly a secret: there’s a lot of pressure (especially in college) for girls to be thin, and unfortunately this makes girls feel guilty indulging in their favorite treats. People associate cravings with being hormonal, gluttonous, and generally “unhealthy.” But just like food, there’s nothing inherently wrong with craving chocolate or mac and cheese. It’s just our bodies telling us what they want. And if our bodies are actively telling us what they want, it’s important, if not necessary, to listen!
Sarah does not in anyway encourage binging on food cravings, as binge eating in any way, shape, or form is usually unhealthy, but she firmly believes in the importance of considering your emotional and physical needs when choosing what to eat, a practice that Sargent Choice calls “thoughtful eating.” The process of thoughtful eating asks that you consider three simple questions before deciding whether or not to eat something. They compare the whole procedure to something every girl can relate to: buying jeans!
1) Do I really like it? You wouldn’t buy a pair of jeans just because your friend likes them. How often do you eat something you don’t really enjoy, just because it’s offered to you?
2) Do I really need it? Maybe you a need warm sweater more than new jeans right now. You have nutrition priorities, too. Certain foods are essential for you to feel good and do well in class, at work and at play. (Don’t worry—you won’t have to give up foods you like to do this.)
3) Is it in my budget? You know you can’t afford to buy everything you’d like at the mall, even though someone else might. You have a unique food budget, too, based on your gender, age, height, weight and physical activity level.
If the answer to all these questions is yes, then there is no reason to do anything but eat and enjoy!
Another important part of this process is to think about the last question. People can drive themselves crazy counting calories, but Sarah suggests a better way of looking at the calorie intake of indulging in your cravings: “Our bodies are young, they’re pretty resilient. In the food pyramid’s budget of daily calories, there’s an extra 300 built-in elective calories that are purely for pleasure.” Yes, friends, there are calories that exist solely to be eaten and enjoyed. I like to call these ‘me calories’. Says Sarah, “When I was in college, I loved to eat those little candy dots. I didn’t eat them for every meal, but they made me so happy, so it was important that I eat them when I wanted them.” People need to indulge in foods that make them happy, even if the only nutritional value of the food is in the pleasure and enjoyment that it is to take each and every bite. As Sarah says, “It’s all about self-love. When you give yourself those foods that you love, you’re loving yourself.” So if you find yourself eating a bowl of ice cream and feeling guilty about it, stop right there! Because you’re missing the whole point of eating it in the first place.
Even if you say no to one or more of those thoughtful eating questions and eat something anyway, there’s no real reason to ever feel guilty about eating. Ever! It’s all just food. As long as you’re giving your body the nutrients that it needs, there’s no problem with a mug or two of hot chocolate in the dining hall. While you’re at it, add some whipped cream and sprinkles. Because when you eat without guilt, you’re loving yourself, and that makes each bite is so much more delicious and satisfying!
To learn more about guiltless eating, Sarah recommends checking out this blog written by two BU dietetic graduate students Elizabeth and Stephanie:
Check out the Sargent Choice website for more information about eating healthy and thoughtful eating:
And don’t forget to like them on Facebook (their goal for the semester is to get +2000 likes!)