Fighting Foods That Make Us Weak

That food is not my Kryptonite.

By Kevin RR Williams

FOOD When I was a child, grocery shopping was all about substitution. Mom would ask, "What kind of cereal do you want?" My three siblings and I would excitedly shout, "Sugar Frosted Flakes." She'd reply, "Put the Corn Flakes in the cart." Our childhood requests for Chips Ahoy cookies were answered with a box of Nilla vanilla wafers — pound cake instead of German chocolate. You get the idea. Only on rare occasions did she indulge our unhealthy wishes.

What’s Your Kryptonite?

Everyone has their little Kryptonite(s) — an indulgence that tantalizes their tastebuds and challenges their willpower. What are mine? I have several: Donna's macaroni and cheese, Harriet's sweet potato cheesecake, Margo's Peach- or Berry-Berry Cobbler, and Ralph's Private Selection Chai Tea with Chocolate Ginger Cookies ice cream. You notice that each one is associated with a particular chef or brand.

Interesting things happen when we reveal a Kryptonite to friends. Some try to redefine it for us, much like the cereal exchange I experienced when growing up. Sugarless ice cream or healthy peach pie are recommended. People tout the virtues of air popcorn over fresh popped. In some cases, substitution is good, but we may not acquire the same craving from an inferior tasting alternative.

I brought a pan of my jerk-spiced macaroni and cheese over Donna's house, not knowing the lair into which I stepped. She casually, mentioned that she also had a recipe for mac'n cheese. Later when I tasted it, I conceded that she topped anything I ever imagined. After giving Donna public kudos, I was inundated for weeks with competitive subpar alternatives mixed with everything from Velveeta to chicken soup by would-be wearers of her title.

Collateral Damage

Clark Kent doesn't keep a bar of Kryptonite in his desk drawer nor does Superman advertise to villains his weakness. Similarly, I try my best to steer clear of my inhibition-lowering indulgences. I am seldom around most of them. I have only had Donna's mac'n cheese once. Perhaps twice a year I have Harriet's cheesecake. And Margo's cobblers are sufficiently priced to keep me at bay.

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Burying ourselves in unhealthy Kryptonite can be damaging. Over time, we can redefine our pleasures — acquire a taste for totally new healthy indulgences. Sometimes there's collateral damage in this tastebud warfare.

As a child, I loved more fruits and disliked vegetables. That was mainly because my mother cooked all the nutrients and color out of frozen or canned veggies. Now I love fresh vegetables but don't care for fruit. People often misunderstand the expression, "don't care for." They often reply, "You don't like fruit?" True, there are some that I dislike and others for which I have yet to acquire a taste. Interestingly, I even have waning interest in fruits I used to "enjoy." I may eat just three cherries; after two bites of a plum, I wonder what to do with the remainder. To my disappointment, I optimistically take a bite of melons when someone remarks how sweet they are. Though the colors are beautiful to look at, fruit just has little power over me.

What’s for Dessert?

It's thought among some professionals that human brain chemistry is to blame for after-dinner sweet cravings. Others feel it is a conditioned reflex stemming from childhood. For some people, a heavy meal can result in a condition called postprandial (after-meal) or reactive hypoglycemia — a state of low blood sugar. Consuming sweet foods is a way to counteract the symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia.

Seldom will you hear me asking, "What's for dessert." Given a choice of a second dinner helping or bowl of dessert, I'll often prefer the entree over the confection — especially if the dessert is fruit.

A simple peach pie is just fruit to me that bounces off my cravings like a rubber bullet. Margo's peach cobbler transcends "fruit" with its luscious decadence. It's a good thing she's vacationing in France. Knowing my unhealthy Kryptonite helps me keep it a bay.

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What is your weakness? Once identified, we may need to keep a safe distance from such unhealthy cravings. If we explore new healthy foods, we might just discover A Bit More Healthy Kryptonite.

Tags: cravings, good health, habits, junk food, motivation, processed, willpower

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  2. Photography by CandyBoxImages licensed from iStock Photo.