For example, when I was training for Kona, I always "rewarded" myself with a Frappachino at starbucks and then pancakes. And then there was ice cream on Sun after my long run, as my afternoon snack. It was my routine after my long sat bike+run and long run and well, I figured I deserved it. But when I got injured 32 days before Kona (2007) I found myself continuing to crave the Frap and pancakes, even though I wasn't training. Even worse, my emotions really affected me on the month preceding Kona and I found myself craving ice cream, sugar and all of my "reward" foods on a daily basis. It was a super rough time for me and I really hope to never return to that place again.
My diet was boring, routine and not balanced. I gave myself an entire year, and no Ironman, to try to understand what my body truely needs on a daily basis and to learn to have a healthy relationship with food. I do not need to feel guilt and restriction with my eating habits so I choose to love what I put in my body and to take a little time each day to understand my daily lifestyle and activity requirements.....and then plan my meals and snacks.
Over the past 2 years, I don't find myself craving sugary foods anymore. I wish I could say I enjoy ice cream every now and then but it just isn't appetizing to me anymore. It is more of an occasional treat and when I have it, I like the real-stuff and I don't worry about calories (nor do I ever "count" my calories). I use to reward myself with ice cream for dinner after my hard Wed night ride in 2007, but that was just a waste of a dinner because it never filled me up and didn't gave me a good feeling in my body when I went to bed. I should have just had a hearty salad and then a small portion of ice cream afterward. As I mentioned before, I do not obsess about food, I just love the feeling of heart-healthy food in my body.
Although I promote a plant-based diet, I feel strongly that you need a balance of carbs, protein and fat in the diet. With this comes a balanced diet. It's important that you first focus on nutrient-rich foods which give you the most nutrients with the fewest calories from unhealthy fats and sugars. If you build your daily diet on a variety of nutrient-rich foods (ex. colored fruits and veggies, whole fiber-rich grains, fat-free/low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt and lean meats, fish, eggs, beans and nuts) you are going to find it much easier to understand your body and what your body really craves, needs and requires.
Having said that, 150-200 calories from "favorite" foods, a few times a week is not going to prevent you from meeting performance and weight goals. Perhaps it is the thought of "feeling fat" or "bad" or "ashamed" when you enjoy a few chips, a cookie or a scoop of ice cream but honestly, 200 calories out of a 2000-calorie balanced diet (key word= balanced) is nothing to beat yourself up about.
I can tell you that I now have cravings for salt (who doesn't in this crazy heat?), fat and fruit during my workouts. I try to listen to my body, after my recovery smoothie, to understand what it is I really want and what my body really needs. Certainly carbs and quality protein but there is nothing wrong with balancing out my meal/snacks with fat and salty foods. I don't own a salt shaker so I try to seek out the best options of salty foods that will keep my body happy after my workout as well as satisfying my cravings.
I made the most delicious salad on Sun (around 3pm) after my 11am "post-workout breakfast" of a whey smoothie and then my "real" breakfast of french toast (I used a cinnamon bagel), an orange/blueberry/banana medley and an extra egg w/ tomatoes.
Sorry I didn't take a pic...my legs were sore and my camera was in my car :(
Campy and I went to a Farmer's market on Sun to pick up some fresh produce and I couldn't wait to make my salad.
I also picked up some wheat thins at Big Lots (where I buy my "processed" food like cereal, oatmeal, sauces, spices, cans, nuts, etc.) and I couldn't wait to assemble my salad of leftovers. I find that if I make the effort to buy an occasional treat, I don't crave it on a daily basis and don't feel any sense of guilt when I have it.
This salad was perfect to solve my salty craving and I felt really good while eating it.
My tip to you. If you find it hard to stop cravings or give up on old habits, look forward to something at your meals. Start with a heart-healthy plant-based meal, balanced with healthy fat, low fat protein and complex carbs and then add a side or top your meal with around 50-100 calories (or a small portion) of your fav. food. This way, your "intimidating" healthy meal, which you may not crave, may become more desirable. Hopefully, overtime you will start to crave the produce and find yourself easing away from old habits which prevent you from reaching your weight or/and performance goals.
What's your favorite post-workout snack?