Have you heard of cronuts? A cronut is basically a donut made with croissant dough. That is, you take the puff pastry normally used to make a croissant, and you deep fry it like a donut, sweetening it along the way to make sure that it is as sugary and crispy and delicious as you can imagine. It’s something that appeared on the New York foodie scene in 2012, and it has been making the rounds. If you’ve been avoiding carbohydrates for a couple of years, you may not have been exposed to the cronut phenomenon.
Three days ago at work, somebody brought in some cronuts to share with the office. And when these cronuts passed under my nose, I felt no cravings at all. I wasn’t even interested. Well okay, I was curious just out of my natural social awareness, but I had no desire to put anything like that into my mouth. I heard my coworkers rave about the delicacy, the crispiness, and the orgiastic delight of eating a cronut, One of them even said that the cronuts had now ruined him for regular donuts. It had no effect on me.
My cravings were totally under control. I didn’t feel any desire for a cronut. And I realized at the time how remarkable that was.
Cravings Under Control
Cravings were an issue for me all my life. Some of my earliest memories are of the strong desire I felt for the foods I wanted to eat. They were invariably high carbohydrate, high fat foods. We know fat is satisfying, tasty, and good for us in the absence of carbohydrates. But the combination of carbohydrates and fats is both addictive and physically toxic. Whether accompanied by a sweet taste in the mouth or a savory one, the desire for foods that mix carbohydrates and fats can easily overwhelm our natural instincts, and drive us to eat them no matter how seriously we know they affect our health and well-being.
But cravings haven’t been a problem for me since I started low-carb high-fat eating. Food is still a sensual pleasure for the tongue, the nose, the eyes, the ears, and the lips, but it doesn’t feel like a compulsion. And I’ve come to accept this as a natural state for myself. Perhaps I’ve even become complacent about how easily I can pass by a bakery window without wanting anything more than to enjoy the pleasant aroma of baking bread. I know in my gut how uncomfortable and unsatisfying anything more than the smell will be.
The thing is, that sense of control can be misleading. I need to remind myself occasionally about the tiny demon lurking at the edges of my consciousness, who always seeks out opportunities to undermine my health and restraint.
The very evening after I so casually ignored the cronuts at the office, I went to a holiday dinner party with my friends, who had made a fabulous Thanksgiving-style dinner. There was turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, spinach casserole, and an incredible array of desserts. I was in perfect form, and I knew how to handle the situation. I wasn’t having any unusual cravings. The dinner looked fabulous, and I helped myself to ample servings of turkey and spinach casserole, avoiding the starchy side dishes. It was all delicious, and I was quite full and satisfied when I was done.
Then, without asking if I wanted anything else, my host put a plate in front of me with ice cream and bread pudding made out of croissants. Just to be polite, I had a taste.
Confessions of a Carbohydrate Addict
I am writing you today from my third day off the wagon. I fell off that evening, indulging in not only one dessert but a full second helping. I even had a slice of pecan pie on top of that. By the time the evening was over, I was hugging total strangers, staring glassily off into the distance during conversations, and feeling generally stoned on carbohydrates. Even though I hadn’t had any alcohol, I didn’t feel safe driving home.
The next day, I found myself slipping a piece of chocolate into my mouth in the morning before I even thought about it. And then I baked a batch of cookies–and not the healthy low carbohydrate high-fat cookies I’ve been experimenting with; just regular cookies. Then I found a small bag of potato chips that had managed to make its way into my pantry a year or so ago, and ate those with my lunch. Dinner was pizza. Oy vey.
Yesterday we went to my parents’ house for dinner. We knew that my father had made his potato latkes, so it was definitely going to be an evening off. We had volunteered to go shopping and bring roasted chicken from a local rotisserie. But while we were out I managed to buy a pan of brownies with cream cheese frosting and a pint of my favorite ice cream. (I didn’t even make the brownies myself, I just bought them. The things we do!) After we got home from dinner–which included not only the latkes but also peach pie à la mode–I sampled the brownies and the ice cream I had bought. I could sense the impact of the sugar in my system as I ate, but when I paid attention, the actual flavor and texture of the food itself was dull in comparison. I kept telling myself along the way that this is what happens when you open the door to a few carbohydrates. But I didn’t feel as my behavior was under my control.
The truth is, I knew something was wrong as soon as I started eating that dessert the first night at my friend’s party. This wasn’t a scheduled carbohydrate reload; this was me going off into an indulgent little affair. I was cheating on myself. It felt naughty and nasty and wicked. And it was shockingly easy to get started. After all, I told myself, when I do a scheduled carbohydrate reload, I don’t have any problem getting right back onto my diet a few hours later. How could having one little bite of dessert at a party be any different?
Well, maybe it was the fact that it wasn’t scheduled that made it different. Suddenly my mind decided that I was on vacation, and there was absolutely no limit to what I could do to myself. I felt my mood roller coaster from being spacey and drugged out to being grouchy and unpleasant to be around. I started getting abdominal cramps the first night, and I spent the entire three days feeling bloated and uncomfortable. I won’t go into detail, but that feeling went all the way through me from top to bottom.
Placing the Blame (on Me)
Maybe it was the spinach casserole. I didn’t ask before I ate it what was in it. It looked like it was just spinach, cream, and cheese. But it was unusually tasty. If there were some hidden carbohydrates in there, they might have triggered my cravings. But it could just as easily have been me letting down my guard, and allowing a polite social encounter to turn into something dark and unpleasant. I don’t really want to know the answer. I’m just taking this is a lesson.
It was a sobering reminder of just how close we all are to being victims of our appetites when we allow ourselves to indulge in carbohydrates off-schedule. The appetite monster that lives in the back of our heads, that little demon, is not to be taken lightly, no matter how confident we are that we have him tamed. We all need to be aware of just how easily we can convince ourselves to eat “just one bite,” and what that can lead to.
Today I’m starting again. I’m not sure how long it will take before I feel my appetite back under control. But I’ve cleaned the bad carbohydrates out of my kitchen, and I know that I have a nice selection of healthy low-carb high-fat foods ready to support me as I step back into my preferred way of eating.
I started this essay with cronuts on my mind, and I have to confess that they are still on my mind. That’s the price we have to pay. But I’m glad to be getting back on the wagon. I know what it feels like to have my appetite under control, and to be eating a healthy low-carb high-fat diet, and to have my body behaving itself, and not to feel bloated and uncomfortable. The result will be worth the effort.