Do you have a certain unhealthy food in your life that you feel powerless to resist? Maybe it’s candy bars or giant slices of pizza. You probably indulge in it from time to time and maybe even to excess every so often. I think we’ve all experienced that guilty, day-after-the-binge feeling. What if I told you that you don’t have to feel bad about the things you eat, even the “junk” food? We all need to change our relationship to food and one of those ways is by eliminating the idea of “bad” foods. You are not a failure if you indulge in unhealthy food from time to time. It’s okay to eat your “food kryptonite.”
**If you have or think you may have an eating disorder, please talk to your doctor, mental health professional, licensed nutritionist or dietician before following this or any other advice about diet.
Powerless to resist
What is “food kryptonite”, you may wonder. The word comes from the comic book hero Superman. He was essentially invincible except for the one thing that could hurt him – an element called “kryptonite” from his home planet (which seems really inconvenient, if you ask me.) In common parlance, kryptonite has come to represent something that we regular humans see as the “one thing” that can harm us, usually in terms of our diet.
For me, that has been Oreo cookies. If you’ve read my writing, I reference Oreos almost as often as I reference snakes. I used to feel like I couldn’t keep them in my house (both the cookies and the snakes). Between me and my husband, an entire package of the creamy, chocolatey cookies would be gone in a few short days. But since the start of the pandemic, I made a point to eat better. And strangely enough, keeping Oreo cookies in my house was part of that. I now have them in my house ALL the time, but I’m not overindulging. I actually don’t eat them that often despite having near-constant access.
It took work on my part, but I was really committed to eating healthier. I knew, however, that I didn’t want to limit myself in terms of what I could have, as long as I was eating healthfully overall. That meant bringing home my kryptonite. Rather than overindulge and get that guilty feeling, I found a way to incorporate Oreos into my healthy eating plan.
I started by taking note of the actual serving size. Three regular Oreos made up one serving. If I wanted Double-Stuf, I could only have two. Since I was keeping close track of my calories, it really helped me stick to the suggested serving size, sometimes less than that if I didn’t have room for it in my daily calorie budget.
Indulge with a purpose
Turns out, my philosophy is a healthy one. Occasionally and mindfully indulging can help some people stay on track. I’d heard this idea before, but always assumed I wouldn’t respond to it. When I started accounting for what I was eating overall, it actually made reasonable consumption of treats much easier.
Of course, you may have specific nutritional requirements that mean that you can’t eat a certain food. For those with celiac’s disease it’s gluten, or for those with diabetes, it’s excess sugar. Even some people cannot indulge in their food kryptonite because it just doesn’t work for them. They end up having too much or allowing it to bring out other bad habits. But for most of us, categorizing foods as “good” or “bad” is unhelpful. If you’re going to eat a brownie, by God, you should enjoy it! Don’t feel bad about it. Smell it, savor it in your mouth, and thank yourself for letting your sweet tooth be satisfied.
You are NOT what you eat
I’m a huge proponent of healthy eating. If you’re fueling your body with low-nutrient, high-calorie food, you aren’t going to optimize your health. And though avoiding sugary treats will probably help that, remember that life is short. Treating yourself from time to time is not going to derail your progress. Eating your food kryptonite is okay. Even Superman would probably approve.