When I graduated from college in 1999, I was pretty heavy — over 200 pounds on my 5-foot-4-inch frame.
Near the end of my first year living on my own, I decided that something needed to change, so I made a new rule:
I will eat ice cream no more than once per day.
If this sounds silly to you, it’s because you have no idea my love affair with ice cream. I ate it by the pint. Literally.
There was a great little place called Halo Farms right near college, and they made their own ice cream on site. Sold pints for $1. It was fantastic.
In the dorm, there wasn’t a freezer that would accommodate a pint-sized container (those little fridges have even smaller freezers) and I couldn’t waste it, could I? (Well, eventually I lived in a dorm that had a communal freezer, but I didn’t want someone else to eat my precious Halo!)
Campus dining room: soft serve in place of milk in my morning cereal. The best with Cap’n Crunch.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the Freshman 15 (and Sophomore 15 … and Junior 15 … and Senior 15…) came from. I’m not a drinker—it wasn’t from beer.
When I lived on my own, I would keep a half gallon in the freezer. Ice cream for (or with) breakfast remained on the menu. Ice cream after dinner is what ice cream is for. And sometimes, on days when I wasn’t working, there might be a third (or fourth…) serving in between.
Once a day was no easy feat.
It caused me to be thoughtful and to plan a little. If I knew I was going out for ice cream later with a friend, I couldn’t have ice cream for breakfast. Which brought me to the realization that perhaps I shouldn’t keep it in the freezer.
It worked. In the nearly 20 years since then, I have had ice cream twice in one day very few times, and they have been closer to now than then.
I still don’t buy it to keep at home—that helps the most—though by this point I don’t usually crave it. When I do eat ice cream, I can almost always eat a fairly small amount and be content. (Even if I eat too much now, it’s still substantially less than what used to be a serving.) It was hard for a while to stop at “content” and not at “but this is good so I’m just going to keep eating anyway.” It took time, but it worked.
And it was worth it. Because ice cream is good, but it doesn’t taste as good as being healthy feels. (Yeah, I know that sounds hokey, but I just don’t feel as good or have as much energy when I eat sugary foods. You don’t realize it until you cut them out. False friends, all of them!)
You know what was harder than limiting consumption? Being OK with dropping the “ice cream lover” label. It was part of who I was. One of my badges. Everyone who knew me at all knew I loved ice cream.
The problem wasn’t even that people didn’t change with me. I just had to let my brain catch up to my habits. Not stand in the way of myself.
I do still enjoy ice cream, but I don’t think it would be in the top five ways friends would describe me at this point. Definitely not in my top five for myself.
So. Pick a thing and go with it. It will be hard, but it will be worth it.