I love ice cream. There’s nothing better than an ice cream cone at the sea side or making a fancy dessert with ice cream, fruit and any chocolate pieces that you manage to scavenge in the kitchen. Ice cream can be so comforting – it can be the friend you need during a break up *cue Bridget Jones’s Diary*, a chilled evening with your best friends, or even exactly what you need when that time of the month comes round for those who bleed.
So the saying ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream’ is pretty accurate in my opinion – ICE CREAM RULES! (My mummy agrees too!)
However, I’m not screaming for ice cream right now, rather I’m screaming because of it. One of the latest fitness craze (spoiler alert: diet behaviour in a sports bra, is still diet culture), albeit not as dangerous as these bloody Skinny Teas and diet pills, is diet ice cream.
There’s quite a range of diet ice creams out on the market now, and quite frankly, they are pretty gross on the whole – old Zoe really thought she was being healthy. But the stand out brand, that everyone is raving about and stock piling is a brand that we’ve all heard of; we’ve all seen it plastered all over our Instagram feed (just a piece of advice: unfollow all those diet culture riddled pages, fitness pages and even friends that promote this sort of content – this is damaging). Guessed what brand it is yet? Halo Top. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t really comment on whether all these claims about it actually being delicious are true, but I have a major chip on my shoulder about Halo Top, and here’s why.
First gripe: the calories are plastered on the front of the tub in huge writing. They have managed to reduce something as delicious as ice cream down to numbers. Once again, diet culture has ingrained in us that what you eat is a numerical energy value, and that’s it. Food is NOT numbers. Food is food. Food is fuel, comforting, family time, friend reunions, enjoyable, relaxing. Especially for those of us in eating disorder recovery, it can be particularly hard to let go of seeing food as numbers, and I still have to consciously not count calories, so to have a popular company reinforce that what you eat is simply a number, can be extremely damaging.
You should be able to go to the seaside with your friends and have an ice cream cone without thinking about how many calories are in it. Simple. Food is not a number.
(Breathe Zoe, breatheeeeee)
Next shot I’m firing: the calories sprawled over the front are for the whole pint. Why do I find this problematic? Because those that eat the whole pint are often ‘fitness’ people, or dieters, or even my friends – and don’t get me wrong, I have eaten a whole pint of ice cream and enjoyed every mouthful, and if that’s what you’re craving then GO FOR IT! (It can also be a great way for those needing to gain weight in eating disorder recovery, as it’s an easy way to meet the higher calorific needs they need). So with all that being said, what is therefore my problem? That many of these people are constantly monitoring what they eat, counting their calories, restricting their intake, still categorise food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and because they never allow themselves to eat ice cream, they can easily eat the whole pint. Some even forcing themselves to eat the whole pint because ‘it’s only 240 calories’. This mentality is another nail in the coffin in terms of being in tune with your body’s hunger/fullness signals. This mentality takes away food freedom and is just another digression from your body telling you what it needs.
Babies are able to eat ice cream until they are satisfied, at which point they most likely push the bowl so that the left over ice cream is sprawled across the floor. We, just like all animals, are innately able to eat intuitively, ie: be able to eat when hungry, and stop when satisfied (friendly reminder that you don’t always need to be hungry to eat! If you fancy a slice of cake with your coffee, go for it!). Relearning to eat intuitively again is hard enough, without the help of diet culture further wreaking havoc with your body-mind connection.
Intuitive eating is being able to eat a couple of scoops of ice cream and feeling satisfied, or eating the whole tub and feeling satisfied. It’s about being able to eat what and when you want. It’s about food freedom– no food is out of bounds.Intuitive eating is eating ice cream because you fancy it or choosing a peach because that’s what you’re craving. Intuitive eating is natural. What’s not innate is eating a whole pint of ice cream that you don’t really fancy because you’re ‘allowed’ it.
The saddest part is that many are able to eat the whole pint because they are restricting their intake, and their body is actually desperate for the energy. The same applies with these fitness crazed people that have ‘epic cheat days’ – they’re able to eat so much because they deny themselves that food, and don’t eat enough for their body’s requirements.
Issue #3 – they’ve labelled it as healthy. Ice cream is not the most nutritious food, but it’s great for the soul and it’s bloody delicious. Just because this diet ice cream is low calories, does not automatically make it more nutritious. Low calorie doesn’t equate to health. That’s simply just another bullshit lie that the diet industry has sold to us. So this ‘healthy’ ice cream is full of other chemicals, and is, in my opinion, LESS nutritionally valuable than the equivalent ice cream that hasn’t been made fat-free, sugar-free or any of the other things that makes ice cream less yummy. That’s not to say that food with these additives is out of bounds – some things, such as desserts, have them, what I’m saying is that something with these chemicals/additives shouldn’t be considered ‘healthier’ simply because it’s low calorie.
I do believe that some may eat the ice cream because they enjoy the taste, and that’s fair enough! I like the Alpro ice cream which is coincidentally lower in calories than other dairy-free ice creams (note: only dairy free due to acne), but I also really enjoy Ben and Jerry’s. My ice cream choice isn’t based on the calorie content of the tub, it’s based on what flavour I want that week!
So by all means, eat Halo Top if you genuinely like the taste, but for the love of God please don’t force yourself to like it simply because of the calorie content sprawled on the tub. Life’s too short to not eat ice cream you enjoy!
PS: if seeing the calorie content on any packaging where it is the sole focus is triggering, please please please don’t get it. Your recovery is far more important.