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When I was pregnant, the majority of people told me to eat whatever I wanted and just enjoy it. Pregnancy was the one time to let it rip and go nuts with any and all cravings. Another group of people gave me the opposite message. That pregnancy was the time to eat healthier than normal because the baby was receiving what I was eating, which made total sense to me. I hadn’t really thought too much about that perspective before, which was disappointing when it settled in because I was prepared and excited to let loose.

Actually, if I’m to be completely honest, my dietary habits were already loose. I do eat healthy most of the time, but if I wanted to have a Big Mac meal (without the excuse of children), I did. If I wanted to go to Baskin & Robbins for a double scoop of World Class Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chocolate, with hot fudge, I did. If I wanted to venture into Pizza Pizza and design my own pie with pineapple, onions and mushrooms (with a side of garlic dipping sauce and a can of cream soda), game on.

I am not a restrictor. Different programs work for different people. For me, restricting myself too much results in putting those foods on a pedestal, which only serves to increase my cravings and binge on junk. So when I want to have something, I do. It reduces the cravings and I enjoy the food when I have it. Once I’ve made the decision to indulge, I do not waste time feeling guilty about it. I take my time and enjoy every bite. Life is just too short.

After receiving both messages about eating during pregnancy, I decided to adopt both. I ate healthy for the most part, main meals were fruits, veggies, whole grains, smoothies, cereal, lean meats. But once a day I treated myself. The truth is, my only craving was for a Whopper from Burger King. I’ve never had one of those before in my life, but there I was in the food court, lining up at BK. I didn’t get French fries or a soda. But I did get a Whopper, which was just fine with me. The other indulgence (though not really a craving) was ice cream.

Let’s be honest, pregnancy was just the excuse to have ice cream daily. Whether it was Baskin & Robbins, Hagandaaz, or Dairy Queen, I was indulging on a daily basis. I was on track with my weight gain, and decided to just enjoy it. I figured I would lose the weight once the little ankle biter was out.

Here’s what I didn’t realize. While a good chunk of the weight would eventually come off, I had established a habit that was a bit tougher to break. I was three months post delivery, and was still indulging on a nearly daily basis. If I skipped a couple of days, it was a serious win. The other element that was reinforcing this habit was the lack of sleep.

Those first few months are tiresome to say the least, mainly because you’re not getting sleep. Period. When I don’t get enough sleep, I’m irritable, which can lead to increased conflict between family members, and my emotional immune system is down; both inevitably leading to diving head first into a pint of something chocolate-flavoured. The habit continues.

Do I beat myself up about? Admittedly, I was thrown at first. But self-berating wasn’t helpful at all. It only served to make me feel crappy, guilty and shameful, which led to more ice cream. So I made a decision. I decided to be gentle with myself, to be forgiving and nurturing. Self-compassion was the answer.

I gave myself permission to have the ice cream if I wanted it, and not to punish myself afterwards. Funny enough, that’s when the desire for it began to decrease. Have I stopped completely? Nope.I don’t plan to. Ice cream is awesome! But I can tell you that the container of peanut butter chocolate my husband brought home will be opened this afternoon. And that is just fine with me.

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