Although I consider myself to be a bit of a health nut, I also happen to have the worst sweet-tooth of anyone I know. A while back, a thought struck me while I was out with one of my friends, grabbing dessert. I was craving some classic Ben & Jerry’s, but I found myself reaching for a pint of low-calorie, dairy-free Halo Top ice cream.
Don’t get me wrong here, Halo Top is and always will be one of my go-to ice creams, and not just because it’s guilt-free. I happen to actually enjoy it. Anyway, my mind lingered on the image of Ben & Jerry’s, yet my hand latched onto Halo Top instead.
My friend and I left the store with lighter wallets and heavy treats in our hands. Me with a tub of guilt-free goodness and him with a good old fudge brownie ice cream.
I looked down at the pint in my hand as condensation dripped down its edges in the summer heat. Something just wasn’t right about the fact that he could easily indulge in the sweets he enjoyed and I couldn’t.
I thought back to the Ben & Jerry’s, comparing it to the alternative I now had. What was the difference? I knew it off the top of my head.
It was a 720 calorie-, preservative- and lactose-filled difference between my favorite Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy, and the Oatmeal Raisin Halo Top which was sweating profusely in my hand.
(Disclaimer: You may have guessed based on numbers, but the caloric difference is for the whole pint, not just a serving. But I think we all know that when a spoon hits the top of a container of ice cream, nothing can stop it but the cardboard at the bottom).
I ran seven miles that morning, knowing full well it burned roughly 700 calories (but probably more), which equated to the difference between the two pints of ice cream. I could let myself indulge if I so wished and I wouldn’t gain a single ounce. Yet I couldn’t force myself to do so.
Standing in front of the freezer section of the grocery store, my hand had briefly grazed the glorious pint of rich chocolate ice cream, but I retracted it quickly as my mind flooded with images of Instagram models, pages of the most recent Victoria’s Secret catalog and everything I was supposed to see when I looked in the mirror. Maybe those images were everything I was supposed to see, but they also just so happened to be everything I didn’t see. Ben & Jerry’s wouldn’t help me see that, I thought. But maybe Halo Top would.
My fears about the dairy content of Ben and Jerry’s sprung from that one time that one summer I happened to get a zit the day after eating a (probably) excessive amount of dairy. That one zit, that tiny red speck on my face invisible to everyone but me, haunted me for years, warning me to be cautious of diary because it might, but probably not, make me break out.
I told my friend my fears about the dairy content as he stood behind me with his brownie. Confused, he furrowed his eyebrows together and told me that my skin looked perfectly clear to him. I covered my face, fearing that his further inspection would lead him to see blemishes invisible to even the most high-powered microscope.
It was then I wondered why something as small as a zit bothered me endlessly when the rest of the world didn’t care about it whatsoever. My friends were beautiful with or without clear skin, so why couldn’t I be, too?
The point comes down to this: my decision to ignore my cravings was based upon two superficial principles.
1) I felt the need to live up to the impossible standard of edited pictures from magazines and social media.
2) I convinced myself that one single zit drastically changed my appearance from pretty to appalling.
I take credit for most of my delusional thinking when it comes to my body image. I admit that more often than not, I create my own problems by worrying about things that simply don’t matter. But I put some of the blame on the world we live in, because I know for a fact that I’m not alone in having a distorted perception of my body. I know for a fact that’s something everyone struggles with, to a certain degree.
We live in a world that is highly superficial. Celebrities are always beautiful, and when the tabloids tell them they’re not, they have easy access to plastic surgery to change what they don’t like about themselves. We see their faces on TV, in magazines, in movies and plastered on billboards on every corner.
Consciously or subconsciously, seeing perfection wherever you go begins to impact you negatively. It can make you question your self-worth, your appearance and how others perceive you. It can make you avoid doing what you want for fear of what others might think, or say, or do in response.
Life isn’t any fun when you hold onto those fears, so don’t. Life is short (Cliché, I know. But sometimes that’s the best way to say things). You’re you, and that’s more than enough. If you want it, eat the Ben & Jerry’s. Be confident in your decision, and enjoy every last bite.