With a Cherry on Top

You know the fabulous contrast about heavy shit? You feel so light an expansive when you let it go! My post last week was super heavy and I had a lot of reservations about sharing it, but the moment that it went up I instantly felt like I could be a balloon and just soar off into the sky.

I think that a big step in my healing process was getting really vulnerable and sharing my truth, and I appreciate your comments and encouragement and support… I commit to being just that authentic and transparent moving forward, and I also commit to holding space for you if something in my posts triggers something about your past or your reality. I love that so many people reached out to me to share some of their stories after that post, and I will always hold a safe, loving place of confidence for anyone who needs to share their journey.

BUT not everything is that heavy.

In fact, this week I have felt pulled to talk about something much lighter, but something that I am every inch as passionate about: ice cream.

Passionate? About ice cream? Don’t you think that’s a bit of a stretch, Mandy?

No, it’s not, thankyouverymuch. Just talk to my sister if you question my passion for ice cream.

In fact, when we really dive deeply into understanding our passions, we often find that they have roots that are much deeper than what we may initially recognize. In this case, I’ve realized that many of my fondest childhood memories revolve around ice cream, and they are so vivid that I can actually taste the different flavors in my mouth. Here are a few of them:

·       Summers in West Virginia when I was really young would often be a gathering time for my grandfather and his 3 brothers, one of whom—Uncle Tip—would make a special effort to take me out for cherry vanilla ice cream. That was our special time together just me and him, and it was always cherry vanilla.

·       Our annual Outer Banks beach vacation was always highlighted by a trip to Dairy Queen, where we stood in lines that seemed to be endless for our blizzards and mom’s hot fudge sundae. Sometimes we would bike or roller blade there, sometimes it would be tacked onto a family putt-putt trip where I would dominate (of course), but it was always all together. And now I [strangely?] have an affinity for hot fudge.

·       Taking roadtrips with my family and stopping at the rest stop off the highway for TCBY. My father, a self-proclaimed ice cream purist, would order a vanilla cup with Reese’s pieces every time, and I would just copy his order. Hence, another love was also born—for peanut butter. J

·       Family trips to Busch Gardens, where we had season’s passes, required a stop at the ice cream parlor next to Big Ben by the entrance, where you could get your cone swirled high with creamy, delicious soft serve and then literally rolled in rainbow sprinkles. Forget dancing cheek to cheek, THAT is heaven. 

This still makes my heart skip a beat!

This still makes my heart skip a beat!

So it is no surprise that ice cream became a comfort food for me, and to this day something that I look to to just put the cherry on top of an excellent day. However, my love for ice cream translated into overindulgence and overreliance on comfort foods and other coping mechanisms, which lead to my weight problems, so I have had to find ways to incorporate it into my life in a more balanced way. Being healthy doesn’t mean that we have to cut the things we love completely out of our lives, it usually just means finding an approach that brings balance and allows us to enjoy and appreciate the foods we love in a way that brings us satisfaction, rather than guilt or reliance.

If you are dairy-free, are trying to follow a clean eating program, or just want to enjoy ice cream without the guilt, here are a few alternatives that I keep in my back pocket:

1)      Whipped bananas—the simplest way to get my ice cream fix is peeling a couple of bananas, cutting them into fourths and then freezing until solid. I then place them in a blender and add a splash of coconut or almond milk for texture… and voila! 

2)      “Nice” cream. This takes the whipped bananas a step further and adds in nut milk instead of cream and natural sweeteners in place of sugar. There are thousands of different flavor profiles you can use for this. You can, for example, just add almond butter or cocoa powder (or both!) to your bananas. Or, blueberries and vanilla extract. Or peanut butter, cinnamon and sea salt.  Search “nice cream” on the web and you will get a bajillion combinations with 5 ingredients or less.

3)      I get it, some people hate bananas. Or are trying to stay away from them for different health reasons. You can make nice cream using coconut milk, soy milk, or almond milk as a base, you just have to come up with another ingredient that will thicken it up. Like avocado! I know, that sounds weird. BUT if you do it right you won’t even taste the avocado, I promise. Here is a great recipe for a chocolatey avocado ice cream that looks straight up decadent! http://jessicainthekitchen.com/vegan-creamy-chocolate-avocado-ice-cream/

4)      Ice cream’s not your thing? Popsicles are another great summer treat if you are looking for something a little lighter. Pour some canned coconut milk into a popsicle tray filled with berries or cut up fruit and herbs a la:

5) If I am in a pinch and cannot whip up my own sweet treat, Halo Top is my go-to. I believe so far it is only available at Whole Foods across the country and in grocery stores in Southern California, but this little pint of goodness has just 240-280 calories per pint (depending on the flavor) AND is chock full of protein and uses all natural ingredients. Now, obviously making your own is better, but I have zero guilt with Halo Top as well.

Balance is something that has been coming up hugely for me in many places in my life, and there were be lots of realness—and likely another vulnerable post—coming up soon around that. I am so thankful to have nutritional cleansing to bring some balance in my life too! No matter what I indulge in, I know I have some high-quality nutrition to default to that will leave me feeling amazing… and a 2-day cleanse after a particularly indulgent weekend is the perfect reset. I am happy to talk with you if you want to explore having that in your back pocket too!

For now, enjoy incorporating some of these recipes into your life to satisfy your sweet tooth, and make some memories with the people you love.