I noticed the sign as soon as I pulled up to park. “Sponge Candy Ice Cream.” It was written freehand on posterboard, displayed in the store’s front window. Score! I thought. That sounds really good today.
For any non-Western New York natives out there, sponge candy is a unique regional treat. It’s a crunchy, crispy kinda carmel-esq center that is coated in chocolate. (See this NPR story for more on the nuances of sponge candy.) I am not a newbie to sponge candy. I think my grandmother pretty much lived off it in the spring months. But as part of ice cream? Well, I’ve never enjoyed that culinary delight.
After parking my car I crossed the street to have lunch with my friend Nicole at an organic cafe. I noshed on a delish homemade veggie burger and a lightly dressed side salad featuring potatoes and green beans. It was a perfect off-day lunch for me. After all, I’m concentrating on eating healthy. I want to put my body in the best possible positon to recover from a summer cold and from my last race. I want to put my body in the best position for training and for my September 70.3 race. Most of all, I want to put my body in the best position to live my life — to live it big and without restrictions. A healthy diet is a key component not just of living my best life but finding joy.
So what about that sponge candy ice cream?
I couldn’t help but think of a blog post I recently read from Rookie Magazine called Eating: A Manifesto. The piece was written by a young barista accounting a scene which replays over and over again — the woman who comes into the shop and has to apologize and feel guilty for wanting to eat a brownie. The author is frustrated. If you want the brownie, then eat the damn brownie:
“I mean, if you feel guilty about just eating a brownie that you want, what else in your life do you want that you’re not expressing?”
That sentiment hit home with me and reminded of the line from a poem by Rumi: “You must ask for what you really want.”
The second part of that is this: You must trust what it is that you want.
And in this moment, I wanted to try the sponge candy ice cream.
What about my diet? What about my training? What about my race? Does this mean I’m not committed to my health and fitness plan? Does this mean I’m not committed to doing well in my next race?
No. It means I want to try the sponge candy ice cream.
Of this I believe is true: 80 percent of the time I strive to eat as healthy as possible. The other 20 percent of the time I eat purely for enjoyment. (This does not mean the other 80 percent of the time is joyless, by the way.) Denial only sets me up to overeat. It sets me up to feel bad about myself. It sets me up to feel guilty. I know myself. I know I am not eating a waffle cone of ice cream every other day. What’s as important as the food I put into my body is what I believe about that food. And as I have taken the time to listen to my body, to get to know what it really wants, I can determine what will satisfy me, what will make me feel good. Without shame. Or guilt. Or the need to apologize.
So, I didn’t think twice. I walked into the store, plunked down my $2.50 for one scoop of dark sponge candy ice cream. It was as wonderful as I thought it would be. And now it’s off to plan my healthy dinner full of vegetables and whole grains. Because life isn’t an either-or proposition.