Saturday, February 24, 2018
It happens to everyone. Homemade pies, decadent chocolate baked goods, buttery salted popcorn. They're out there. Ready and waiting. Everyone falls victim sometimes, even the Center's training team. Here's what to do ...

When Cravings Get the Best of You

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

It happens to everyone. Homemade pies, decadent chocolate baked goods, buttery salted popcorn. They’re out there. Ready and waiting. Everyone falls victim sometimes, even the Center’s training team. Here’s what to do …

Regardless of how it appears, there are junk food “skeletons” in everyone’s kitchen closet. Yes, even that buff neighbor who insists on wearing biking shorts and tank shirts 24/7. We shouldn’t live without little indulgences, and that includes the occasional cookie. It’s when a serving becomes an entire package that we cringe, an internal siren sounds, a line is crossed. The ripped, empty goodie bag sits abandoned.

It Happens

Just ask Fitness Manager Patrice Malone whose weakness is Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies. “I can eat the whole thing in one sitting!” Rather than retreat after a blunder, run full force ahead and remain steadfast to healthy goals. Patrice confronts her inner cookie monster with kettlebell swings.  “Nothing works me harder than 30 minutes of this high-intensity cardio workout.”

Exercise is often the repentance of a healthy eater gone astray. Although a good workout can counteract a dietary slip, many miscalculate how much treadmill time is truly needed to burn off that piece of cheesecake. (For a 140-pound individual and a 500-calorie slice, it takes a whopping one-hour jog on the treadmill at a five-mile-per-hour pace to undo the deed.) The exact amount of exercise needed to negate a particular food boo-boo varies according to body weight.

Dietary experts warn a workout does not perfectly offset a bad food choice. There are many aspects to foods’ effect on the body beyond calories consumed. You’re also consuming cholesterol, sugar, fats, and ingredients that affect mood. You need to burn off all of it during exercise, not just what may appear on the hips.

Fitness Manager RJ Pietrucha has a Stouffer’s macaroni-and-cheese weakness. A combination of calorie and fat content, along with its processed nature, delivers RJ a double whammy. “When I succumb, I perform heavy weight training, with a little extra cardio in my day-after workout.” Although that does the job, perhaps RJ should learn a recipe for homemade low-fat baked mac to spare himself the sodium and preservatives. Okay, maybe that would reduce the overall appeal.

That’s Amore

intro pizza, picAmericans consume approximately 350 slices of pizza each second. Everyone in the United States eats about 46 slices per year. Pizza is a $30 billion dollar industry, with three billion pies sold in the United States each year. Evidently, this is one hard-to-resist splurge.

Pizza is a way of life. We grab a slice to go, order a pie when too tired to do anything but dial the phone, enjoy it at parties throughout life. Fact: More pizza is consumed during Super Bowl week than any other week of the year. It’s the highlight food of kids parties and sleepovers of all ages, right up there with birthday cakes.

With so many styles and toppings, pizza can satisfy a multitude of cravings. For Fitness Manager Sharon Casper, it cannot be just any pizza. “It has to be Nomad Pizza,” admits Sharon, who sandwiches it between two days of intense workouts. With all that dough, especially of the beloved thick-crust Sicilian style, the calorie-per-bite ratio is, well, let’s not think about that.

Pizza is also the vice of Fitness Manager Sharon LaForge. Rather than two days of intense workouts, she throws in an extra training session and moderates her food intake the following day. No leftovers for her.

Make your slice a vehicle for veggie delivery.
Make your slice a vehicle for veggie delivery.

Instead of consuming multiple pieces, fill up on one healthy loaded slice. Go for veggie toppings that provide nutritional value and fiber for fullness. A half-cup of chopped red pepper has 1.5 grams of fiber. Have some fiber delivered with your pizza. (You’ll still need the intense workouts though.)

Men who receive their pizza delivery while wearing muscle shirts order pepperoni three times more than any other topping. With that association, let’s hope they lift the weights appropriate for the shirt!

Eggplant parmesan was listed as one trainer’s favorite treat.  This is a perfect example of a good food gone bad. Eggplant is nutrient-rich, low in calories, and especially loaded with fiber. However, the pure benefits are smothered when fried, breaded, and cheesed. Yet, if you “gotta have Italian,” this rich, savory meal trumps some other choices, including meat lasagna with whole-milk ricotta cheese.

Tame your favorites by replacing meat recipes with vegetables, and cheese with low-fat alternatives (including cottage cheese for ricotta). Shh– Grandmom  doesn’t need to know. As for this trainer, eggplant parm and other such pleasures are supposedly expected,” It’s part of my lifestyle to accommodate these indulgences.”

Sweet Tooth

Fitness Manager Jennifer Young says, “Don’t be concerned.” Consider your health habits in broader terms. By consuming appropriate portion sizes and healthy foods most of the time, all is good. Jennifer emphasizes the importance of consistent workouts, regardless of what you eat. “I don’t have to feel guilty and add extra workouts. If I indulge, but overall haven’t exceeded my healthy caloric range, I don’t need to be concerned.” That’s how she affords herself a love of baked goods– scones, muffins, and donuts, to name a few.

Another trainer with a sweet tooth, particularly weak for cheesecake, beautifully decorated cakes, and chocolate, manages to tame any guilt feelings with sensible eating for the days following. Combined with running additional miles and strength training, dietary disasters are averted.

“The chocolate and peanut buttery goodness of Funny Bones cakes gets me every time. I have eaten an entire box in five minutes,” admits Fitness Manager Renal Patetta. He works off this food crime with a good run at a neighborhood park. “I accomplish a smooth two miles, followed by an hour of kicking around the soccer ball.” Sounds like it’s worth it.

Be a baked-goods snob. Try to avoid boxed and prepackaged pastries, cakes, and confections which are often processed with unnecessary ingredients like trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and dyes. Look for wholesome options in petite sizes. Companies and restaurants are aware of wellness initiatives and are beginning to adjust menus and offerings that reflect this. Hence, the emphasis of ingredients on package fronts (“No trans fats!”) and the introduction of 100-calorie packs.

All candy, including chocolate, can be tricky to determine in the exercise ratio. The addition of coconut, peanut butter, caramel, and such can turn a basic bar, worthy of a mini lunch-break sweat session, into need for an aggressive overhaul of your daily workout. Best bet: Dark chocolate covered almonds. You get the crunch, the sweetness, and the salty in a portion size that is easy to determine. Plus, you consume the health benefits of dark cocoa and almonds.

It’s All in the Approach

Fitness Manager Pete Sarni takes an effective approach. He plans two unrestricted meals per week. During these, he enjoys whatever food he wishes. His regular circuit training does the job, without any extra exercises. Pete’s already considered these two indulgences. By doing this, he reports a lack of “can’t resist” foods. Perhaps knowing he can have them at a later point of the week prohibits him from feeling deprived. “I can resist any food,” he remarks, possibly because he knows it’s not entirely off limits.

Beware: If you take this approach, don’t allow yourself to “borrow” from the scheduled indulgence. Set those meals or snacks for certain times of the week and stick to it. Otherwise, the plan is worthless.

One trainer cites cheeseburgers as paradise. The counter: squats and deadlifts. Double the exercise if you got the meal deal and went to the drive-thru or did any supersizing. Extra points if you parked and walked inside to the scene of this crime.

Chocolate? Vanilla? Health.
Chocolate? Vanilla? Health.

In tempting situations, whether it is a celebratory dinner or post-dinner fridge raid, rephrase your options. Replace the debate. Deciding between chocolate or oatmeal cookies can be rethought as deciding between junk food or a step closer to skinny jeans. Make a healthy alternative one of the options. It’s easier to make the right choice when the right choice is part of the equation.

Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University and author of the forthcoming book The Willpower Instinct, informs, “When the brain identifies a reward, it shifts into a state of intense focus and drive. Use that drive to your advantage simply by changing the reward in any given situation. It’s easier to go after something you want (health) than something you don’t want (extra pounds disguised as donuts).”

When you can’t walk away from a display of desserts at a party or a pile of cheese fries at a game, think of the nonedible qualities of the food. Focus on the presentation, the recipe itself, or the time involved in preparation. These objective thoughts help resist temptation of the subjective emotion (gotta have it).

No one is perfect. That includes fitness and health professionals, and the svelte body on the treadmill next to you. Do your best to avoid dietary blunders. Consistently exercise on most days of the week. This assures you will overcome, if you happened to succumb. Be supportive and accepting of yourself and your efforts. When that bag of chips calls, and you answer, know that it’s a party line shared by even the most health conscious.

P.S. Long live pizza!


“10 Ways to Burn Calories from Guilty Pleasures,” by Madeline Vann at

“Supersize Your Self-Control,” by Kate Rope at

Image Credits

Hot fudge sundae (introductory photo):


Veggie pizza:


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