I Ate Ice Cream for Breakfast!

Sunday morning, Michelle and I ate ice cream for breakfast.

It gets worse.

We also ordered gluten-free pizza from Domino’s.

And yes, I’m telling you this for a reason.

As a nutritionist and health “guru”, I’m frequently looked at by my friends as the “food police”, a job I neither asked for nor want. People are afraid to order in front of me at restaurants. When I go to out to dinner, people are particularly curious about what I order. And if they do something they consider “indulgent”—i.e. order dessert, drink coffee, have a beer—they tend to look at me with guilt in their eyes.

So here’s the story: One, I’m not the food police. Two, I have food cravings and occasional lapses just like everyone else.

Which brings me to the topic at hand—trade-offs.

Kaja Perina, the editor of Psychology Today, recently wrote about trade-offs in her Editor’s Note column. “Trade-offs are evolution’s building blocks”, she writes. “All organisms arise from a series of cellular negotiations, and our brains are no exception”.

You want to live on a snow-capped mountain because it makes your heart soar? Cool, but the trade-off is you don’t get to walk on the beach every morning.

Or, as my father used to say, “You pays your money, you takes your choice”.

So what was the trade-off with ice cream for breakfast? Well, I sacrifice a few health points—big sugar influx, lots of calories I don’t need, little or no serious nutrition. But the gain? Well, a lot of pleasure, as everyone who’s ever curled up in a warm bed with a loved one on a Sunday morning watching “Orange is the new Black” and gorging on Haagen Daaz well knows.

And what’s the price of that pleasure?

Actually, not all that much.

Look, please don’t understand me too quickly. I’m not advocating junk food binges, and I’m not implying that what you eat doesn’t matter. That position isn’t even on the table. And I certainly recognize that when we have serious addictions, we can’t throw caution to the wind for a few hours of fun. If you’re an alcoholic, you don’t have the occasional drink because it’s “fun”.

As someone who’s been addicted to half the things in the Physician’s Desk Reference, I’m fully aware of what I can and can’t do. I won’t be having the “occasional drink” nor the “occasional line of coke”, at least not anytime in the next, oh, 100 years or so. But sugar, bad as it is, is something I can eat once in a while without going too crazy. I can get back on track pretty quickly—and that “track” for me is pretty straight and narrow when it comes to nutrition. For me—with this particular indulgence, at this particular time—it’s a case of no harm, no foul.

So am I recommending an occasional binge? Hardly. But what I am recommending is a little less rigidity when it comes to our attitudes about food.

Look, food is fuel. We get that. It’s nourishment. It’s vitamins and nutrients and phytochemicals and fiber and polyphenols and antioxidants and omega 3s and all the other good stuff that keeps our body running smoothly.

But it’s also taste, texture, pleasure and sensuality. And it’s a big part of many recreational and social events.

And once in a while—depending on the person and the situation—it’s OK to indulge, JUST for the considerable fun of doing so.

My friend, superstar nutritionist Oz Garcia, used to call this “recreational eating”.

And yes, my friends, there is a place for that.

The trick is knowing what works—and doesn’t work—for you.

I had a great time that Sunday morning. We binge watched “Ray Donovan” and “Newsroom”. We lounged around till noon. We talked a lot. We had fun. And we ate crap.

And Monday morning, it was back to eating the way I know I need to eat every day to stay in the state of health I want to stay in.

As the great, late nutritionist Robert Crayhon once said, “Pleasure is a nutrient”.

I think we all might do well to remember that.

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15 Comments

  • Love this!!! I love green smoothies, grass fed beef and sprouted almonds…but life without an occasional ice cream with my kids just sounds sad and stressful! I love your message – healthy eating is healthy, but pleasure is healthy too – it starts a cascade of the body-and-brain loving relaxation response!! Thanks so much for sharing – it makes me love your work even more!

  • josie

    This what life is all about!!!

  • Reading that post was almost as much fun as eating ice cream for breakfast!

  • Nando

    Ha! A clever bit of reverse psychology. “I’m not the food police.” “Pleasure is a nutrient.” Food is “… taste, texture, pleasure and sensuality”

  • Newport Carl

    I have to be very careful because, for me, the more carbs I eat, the hungrier I get. Wierd but true. I’m giving a talk soon based on your book Living Low Carb, where I observe the there would have been no civilization developed (Egypt, Mexico) but for farming carbs…and that we cannot support the modern earth’s current population, but for massive carbs. But that doesn’t mean that I have to eat ’em. Thanks for all you do Jonny. Keep the blogs coming.

  • Glenn

    I too enjoy an occasional “cheat.” But then when I go back to my healthy ways, it feels as good as the cheat, if not better!

  • Peter

    I was at a big party 10 years ago, my friend was turning 50. Beautiful summer day, 10 tables outside, 60 guests there. Most of my friends had started to look like Doug in King of Queens, and the women sound like Carrie, nagging their husbands: “Peter looks great after he lost 35 pounds, ask him what he eats, and you do the same, dammit!”
    The host´s wife had prepared a lovely buffet. Some items very good for me, and some not so good. As always. So the hosts make a little welcome speech and say “Ok, hit the food, everybody!” Nobody moves, and when she urges someone to start he says “But I want to wait until I see what Peter has, I am afraid of eating something wrong..” I felt terrible, got up and started with the white bread, the pasta salad, the low fat dressing…well, you get it.
    And I said, “Guys I can eat whatever I want once or twice a week, go ahead and enjoy the party now!”
    I indulge a bit like you, having some good ice cream etc. But I still keep some no no´s. No margarine, no fat free yoghurt with sugar or whatever. Quality sugar stuff is ok!

    • Suzanne

      Exactly! And I occasionally make homemade ice cream in my Cuisinart with organic cream, milk and sugar, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty, since it certainly beats the store-bought stuff in both taste and nutrition!

  • Mary T

    Usually, I prepare my own cheat treats but if I do not feel like making my own cheats, I will have an alternative such as sugar free cookies or sugarfree ice cream. However, whenever I indulge I control my servings. I do quite well like this.

  • Mahena

    What I love the most about you is your intelligent honesty. Thanks for the fun missive. You continue to inspire me.

  • Branden

    Love it. Again, please add a link to your blog archive so I can read all of your material! Currently I can only click the most recent posts or search by tags. Would love an option to browse the entire archive!

  • Peter Smith

    Great post!

    I recently read an article in an online paper in Korea, where I currently live, which makes a similar point. Here’s a link if you’re interested:

    http://theseoultimes.com/ST/?url=/ST/db/read.php?idx=12035

  • Marylin

    Love the post! Glad to hear that someone else thinks the same way! I enjoyed the read as well as the information in it. I’ll be sharing this article with all my friends and family! Thanks again Dr. Jonny!

  • Dawn

    Hi. I completed NY22 on July 14 this year. Since then, I have continued the nutrition pathway and have a carb feast meal every 4 days. I am also pursuing MA and I am in week 2 of Phase 3. My total weight loss is about 16 pounds. I was reading a biotrust nutrition post, where they recommended feasting on favourite foods, including carbs, at least once a week for the hormonal based reasons explained in NY22. I have been thinking of making my carb feast meal… a carb feast day (all 3 meals), every 8 days? I would still retain a carb feast meal every four days.What do you think?

  • Maria Luisa

    me encanta su blog, doctor 😀

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