Dear Ice Cream, Your Calories Were Worth It

Confession: I no longer have ‘cheat’ days, ‘days off’ or vow to ‘get back on track’. My goal is to eat without guilt, every day, and live my life to the fullest.

ice cream on table

There’s more to a trip to Haagen-Dazs than calories

Ice cream. Calories. Fat. Forever. *insert freak out and emotional meltdown*

Six months ago, I couldn’t imagine going in to Haagen Dazs to buy ice cream without thinking about the calories and the impact my indulgence would have on my Monday morning weigh-in. I had no idea what it felt like to look at a sweet treat and hear anything but berating and accusation, yet feel helpless to resist sugar. Standing in a ‘bad’ food store was like entering the middle of a battlefield and being attacked from both sides.

Calories have the power to make or break me, or I should say, they used to.

It was while enjoying a custom created ice cream at the Haagen-Dazs store in iGrand Cayman on Sunday, that I realised some fundamental changes that I have started to experience along this road of recovery. It’s not been a long time, but it’s encouraging to see real change taking place.

The beautiful in-store decor

From the moment I pulled the door and stepped inside the store, I felt light and airy. The weight of “oh no, I shouldn’t be in here!” was nowhere to be felt. The joyful colour scheme, high ceiling and clean look, was different to the last time I’d been there; no more booths, just a canteen, boutique style that really captured my mood. It was fresh and I wanted to savour the space and the ice cream.

It was a miracle; I’d noticed the interior of the store. I wasn’t preoccupied with fighting thoughts in my head.

The company and conversation

We were tempted to take our ice creams away, but I was drawn to sit in store and eat. I’ve been committing to creating new memories and emotions around foods that once carried the ‘bad’ label. I’d be lying if I said that was easy – it requires courage to face the fear and eat anyway. It often feels overwhelming to be fighting a battle in the mind that others have no idea about. But I will say that when you’re used to hiding the consumption of bad foods and eating alone, there’s something liberating about eating openly. Two fingers up to the eating disorder that robbed thirty years of my life. Since being in recovery, I have been doing that more and it’s empowering.

Not only was I eating my ice cream openly but rather than associating certain foods with emotions that bring me down, I was normalising them with good ones. Sharing that time and space with my Mum, without judgment or the negative internal dialogue, was nice and it felt different.

The joyful server

Her name was Althea – I read it from her badge. My eyes were drawn to take note when I felt her willingness to help, answer our questions and listen to what we wanted, rather than just fitting our order in to the descriptions listed on the menu. It’s often the simple things that can create a lasting impression and whether she was wishing in her mind that she was somewhere else or not, she didn’t show it – she was present, engaged and added a nice touch to my day.

When placing my order I wasn’t worrying about the calories, but enjoying the interaction with her. I wonder how many times I’ve missed out, just because my attention was fixated on the food and the guilt it carried, rather than the person in front of me.

The taste of my order

Without obsessing over good and bad foods or calorie content, I had time to consider what I like about my ice cream and what I actually wanted. I remembered how sweet it had been last time and considered the parts of it that I liked and those parts I didn’t. Althea was a gem and customised mine to exclude the caramel or fudge sauce but added bits of waffle cone instead (I like them!). I was doubting the cream, not to reduce my calorie intake, but not sure if it would add to the taste. What tipped the balance in favour of ‘Do it’? It looked nice! And I’m learning that the appearance of what I eat is part of the experience too.

It might have been mindfulness in action (Yay me!), but all I remember was thinking pleasant thoughts instead of horrible, hurtful ones.

My order was pleasing to me. I wasn’t bingeing on a huge tub, guzzling it down without a thought or any enjoyment – I was savouring the taste that I liked. It wasn’t too sweet either. I enjoyed it and it tasted good.

The blessing of my location

Before stopping at the Haagen Dazs store, we’d taken a walk and seen a sign. My Mum was lost in the plants and flowers but words are my thing, so this sign seemed fitting; ‘Camana Bay – where life blossoms’. As I sat eating my ice cream, I thought about how blessed I was to be in the Cayman Islands and how my life and I were blossoming more and more each day.

I felt blessed to be able to sit and eat my ice cream in one of very few countries in the world that can say it is Covid free in the community and has no restrictions on activities like taking a walk, eating out or being around people.

Each spoonful of my ice cream wasn’t a guilt ridden action, but a huge thanks that I could be there, eating ice cream, in the store, with my Mum and loving it.

The opportunity to practice photography skills

I enjoy taking photographs. Am I a pro? Not by a long stretch, but I enjoy trying to capture through a lens, what stimulates and inspires my eye. The store and its furnishings provided the perfect opportunity, so I tried a few angles. I’ve added my favourite shot to the top of this post.

My ice cream was the subject of the photo because I wanted to remind myself that food, whatever it is, should not be hidden or demonised, but enjoyed. To the eating disorder – you must be getting tired of seeing my two fingers now, right? It’s been nearly three months and look at me sharpening my skills instead of focusing on you!

It was a worthwhile outing

I could have allowed the calories and fear about the number on the scale to overshadow my experience at Haagen Dazs. But I made the decision that an eating disorder with its whispers, wasn’t going to rob me of the moments in my life. My recovery depends on being inclusive – of food and experiences. Ice cream has calories, yes, but to enjoy all the other treats that came with it, made those calories worthwhile. No regrets.

And so we left. Walking in to another moment of my life. One foot in front of the other. Not sure if the next moment would bring the same victory, but proud of myself for finally owning my road and committing to it, one moment at a time.

Takeaway: There’s more to food than calories, there are moments that create life and I am committed to living those moments and creating a life that brings me joy and makes me smile.