I love cookies. Like, REALLY LOVE cookies. Actually, I love a lot of different sweets, but cookies are my all time favorite.
I also want to be keep my weight down – and be healthy – and feel good. Quite a conundrum.
A few months ago, I decided to start dieting – again. I didn’t have a lot of weight to lose – but felt bloated, uncomfortable, tired and just plain “ugh”. So I started the DASH diet, which is one of the healthier diets out there – low carbs, lots of vegetables, and lean protein. What it didn’t have was cookies. And that made it difficult for me to stick to.
During my dieting, I determined that gluten was a major source of my bloating – so I made a conscious effort to go as gluten-free as I could. Reducing gluten also helped reduce my carb intake, which helped a lot in terms of my weight loss.
I still struggled with keeping with the program. I discovered how much texture made a difference to me in terms of whether or not I enjoyed food. It was winter and salads were cold and while somewhat crunchy, didn’t have the “oomph” I needed to keep them on my plate for long. I don’t care for vegetables much – raw they are too crunchy and dry (unless smothered in ranch dressing), cooked they are too mushy and it changes their taste. I longed for cookies – room temperature, somewhat crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, with chunks of chocolate (or other goodies), sweet and glorious in my mouth.
I was feeling too deprived – so I decided that if I wanted to stay on my diet, I needed to have cookies. I know it sounds weird, but I knew it to be true. If I have cookies, I can manage the rest. I just needed to figure out how to make it work.
For one, the cookies had to be gluten-free. I was fortunate to find a box of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies at Walmart. I figured they would be hard and dry – but was pleasantly surprised that while small, they were soft and chewy and had great flavor. This discovery put me on the search for more varieties of gluten-free cookies – leading me to luscious lemon, crisp chocolate mint, chewy brownie, and crunchy fudge-striped shortbread flavors.
Now of course, I could easily eat a box of these cookies in one sitting, which would ruin my diet. So instead, I looked at the serving size and the corresponding calories. Two chocolate chip cookies were 130 calories. Not bad I thought. I could work with that. And having those two cookies would help keep my body satisfied and allow me to keep on my diet, while adjusting what I ate to compensate for those 130 calories. One of the best ways I have found to use the cookies to help me through the day, was to cut each cookie into fourths, wrap each one in plastic wrap and put them in my pockets when I went to work. When I felt a little hungry, I could easily unwrap my cookie, slide each bite-size piece under my facemask and eat it without anyone else being the wiser. And when there were donuts or other sweets in the staff room, I had my own sweet to keep me on track. I never felt deprived.
I have used this same way of thinking with other foods and drinks as well. I now will have salt and vinegar potato chips, sweet chili mini rice cakes, gluten-free crackers, or chai tea lattes to help me stick to my “diet”. The key is to look at the SERVING SIZE and the calories (did you know that a serving size of bread is ONE slice, not two?). If the serving size says 18 crackers, then I would count out the 18 crackers. I was a little concerned when I looked at the package of potato chips because it said the serving size was one OUNCE. Like how the hell would I know how many chips that is? So I grabbed a cereal bowl, put it on my postal scale, zeroed it out and then added chips until it said “one ounce.” Now I had a visual of one ounce of chips, so next time I didn’t have to weigh them.
The point is, everyone has that ONE thing (okay maybe more than one) that they long for when they diet. And when you have those cravings, it is so hard to stick with your healthy eating plan – and so easy to give in to temptation and then feel bad about “cheating” and the whole idea of dieting becomes negative. With some thought, research, trial and error, and diligence, you may be able to enjoy those things within moderation – and still have success with your diet.
You do have to be careful though. I found a particular gluten-free cookie that was so good, that I knew I should never buy them again, because as soon as I ate one, I literally wanted to eat the entire box in one go. There are going to be triggers – and you have to learn from those which foods you can use, and which ones are to be avoided. There are ways to get the flavors you desire, the textures, the saltiness or sweetness you crave, without going rogue.
Do what you gotta do. Try different things. Adjust your calories throughout the day. Sticking to a diet does not mean you have to follow it 100 percent of the time. Allow yourself to tweak it so that it works for you. If you try something and it doesn’t work, learn from that, and try something else. Putting cookies in my pockets works for me. You need to find out what works for YOU, because you are the only one that knows yourself and your needs. You got this.