Got this email recently from a marathoner, Michelle, seeking advice for an out-of-control sweet tooth. Posting it here to see if readers have comments, though you’ll also find some advice right after Michelle’s letter from Mary Creel, Cooking Light’s marathon veteran (50 and counting!) and an RD.
I am an avid runner and marathoner and try to follow a healthy diet. I have a huge achilles heel when it comes to sweets. I adore candy! The chocolatey, chewy, caramel callings of candy bars and boxed chocolates. I actually have a "stash drawer" in my desk at home that holds a plethora of mini candy bars, jelly beans, and M&M’s. I have enough self control not to dive into it on a daily basis, but I would love to be able to give it up, if not completely, at least to the point where I don’t feel slightly panicked when my chocolate booty becomes depleted and I start thinking about a trip to the store for more. I think my cravings are rooted in childhood when I was denied candy for every reason under the sun... it will rot your teeth, spoil your appetite, make you fat… etc. etc. Which it has done none of those, but I realize a healthier attitude towards addictive substances is the path to a healthier body. So I am on a journey to absolve my need for chocolate.
Response from Mary:
As a fellow avid runner, we have a little more wiggle room for discretionary calories, but at the same time, it is still no excuse for complete and total indulgence. A couple hundred more calories are not going to ruin your diet unless they take the place of healthy snacks. Try portioning out your treats into zip-top plastic bags and enjoy eating them a “mindful” snacking experience. Or when a craving hits, make a “deal” with yourself that you’re going to reach for a piece of fruit, handful of nuts, or small container of yogurt first.
I’d also suggest incorporating more nutrient-dense snacks, which will also help enhance your performance and it will make you feel better. You could mix some dark chocolate in with nuts and dried fruit (a chocolaty trail mix) or make some homemade granola with some chocolate bits in it. That way, you are still getting your chocolate fix, and getting whole grains with the granola and protein with the trail mix blend. You don’t need to fully deprive yourself, especially since you feel that childhood deprivation is the reason behind the addiction. I keep a little "stash" in my desk drawer of bite-size energy bars that are about 100 calories, many are chocolate-coated or flavored. And they have more nutritional value than something I’d get from the vending machine.
At Cooking Light, we believe in balance, moderation, variety, and that chocolate can fit into a healthy diet. We applaud your attention to detail in the physically active world and are behind you 100% for your concern! It has to start somewhere!
P. S. I noticed from your picture that you did the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n' Roll half marathon. I’m from Virginia and believe it or not, in all of my 50 marathons, I have never run one in my home state. The Richmond Marathon and Virginia Beach R&R are on my bucket list! Maybe we’ll run into each other sometime if you’re like me and take mini-vacations by going to out-of-town races.
Readers: Can you you offer Michelle any tips for busting her sweet tooth? Comment below.