the ice cream sundae challenge

I had this crazy dream last night. In it, I was eating an ice cream sundae. Let me just tell you about this for a second:

It was in a fluted plastic cup. At the bottom were melted heaps of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, buried under a thick layer of hot fudge, which was studded with brownie chunks. Fluffy piles of whipped cream hid cool, slick slices of strawberry and banana.

Someone else was holding the sundae. I don’t know who, but I was probably not supposed to be taking so much of it. And I kept spooning enormous bites into my mouth. It was heaven. Cool and creamy and sweet and textured.

I kept having more. Another bite, another bite. I was trying to eat quickly, glancing furtively around. I wanted so much more, but I was trying to hide what I was doing.

And the whole time, I was thinking, “This is so bad for me. I wonder how many calories are in this thing? I shouldn’t be eating this. This is all sugar. Sugar kills. I am basically killing myself right now. I am doing to gain so much weight if I keep eating like this. I need to stop.”

In my dream, I was embarrassed and guilty. For eating an ice cream sundae that didn’t actually exist.



It’s a funny thing, to feel a little liberated for eating dessert when I want dessert.

Why should that be liberating? It should just be normal.

But, you know, that’s why I write this blog. And that’s why I collect pictures of women and girls eating cake (and other desserts). And that’s why women and girls write to me all the time to tell me that they’re looking at those pictures and crying in relief. Or looking at those pictures and grinning uncontrollably. Or looking at those pictures and suddenly feeling like everything is a little better (an endless thank you to all of you in the cake gallery and everyone who keeps sending me pictures and to Gloria Baker Feinstein, who took these pictures for me). Because eating cake is actually a big deal. It’s a little victory, in a way. It is a “yes” to enjoyment and pleasure and a “no” to the pointless, dogged guilt that trails after us, whining about our bellies and our thighs and how we should look and should be. Meanwhile, we are already something. Something good.

But in my dream, I was glancing furtively around, worrying about calories as I ate this perfect dessert that my mind had created for me in mouthwatering detail.

Maybe it had something to do with last night, when we were all watching LOTR in the main room, with the ocean dark in the distance, and I started craving a snack, so I went into the kitchen for a piece of cheese, but the cheese was gone, and there was a little sugar-encrusted donut there, and I picked it up, thinking, “I’ve already eaten sweet things today, I probably shouldn’t have this.” And then I ate it anyway, and it was delicious. I dunked it in milk.

And the guilt over the donut probably has something to do with the fact that I am wearing a bikini for most of every day, here in the Caribbean, where the humidity hangs in the air like a wool blanket and the water is a safe haven of cool. I am always seeing my belly. There it is, exposed, all the time. I am glancing down constantly, to check. Are any stray hairs poking out of my bikini bottom? My breasts, freed from a padded bra, seem meager and a little lost.

But my belly is anything but lost. It is present. It is happy.

So I am walking around in a bikini, wrapping myself in a pink and gold sarong (thank you, Emily!), and I am with my family, all of whom are on a low-carb diet.

I am the one who bought the donuts. And I am the one who ate them.

I ate them in a bikini.

And then I glanced down and worried about my belly. As though the donuts would magically transfer there within moments, adding an extra layer of fat.

Sometimes I see myself for a second in a mirror as I walk by, and I am surprised at how I don’t look very heavy. Not as heavy as I feel. Not as heavy as I look to myself when I look down.

And I think this tiny, dangerous thought. I think, “You look good.”

And then another, “You look natural. Maybe you are supposed to be this weight.”

(and then occasionally, i’m so busy doing something else in a bikini that i forget i’m even wearing one. note the sunblock on my head that makes me look like i have an enormous bald spot. that’s being conscientious for ya! and not in the least bit sexy. but then, who says wearing a bikini has to be all about being sexy?)

It is thoughts like those that lead to donuts in the evening, and a bagel in the morning. It is thoughts like those that enable ice cream sundaes of epic proportions, of generous heaps of whipped cream over wanton brownies and voluptuous rolls of chocolate and vanilla.

Ice cream is about letting go, actually, I think, now that I’m sitting here in the stifling heat, thinking about it.

Because I am afraid. I am afraid that I will lose control. That there is a slippery slope of sweets that I might slide down into unattractiveness. Into sloppiness. Into the helpless zone of being heavy in a world where everyone seems to agree that heaviness is terrible. Where my family praises and praises each other for losing weight.

I am on vacation, and I am bad at letting go. Some things don’t relax so easily. I can’t stop writing. And I am thinking too much, I think.

Bear, my brother, his girlfriend, and I drove to the nearest grocery store. Bear is getting good at driving on the left side of the street, but whenever a car comes at us from the other direction everyone yells “STAY LEFT!” Maybe amazingly, we found no-sugar jam and low carb bread.  We also got cheese and meat for burgers. Celery. Carrots. And then, at the last second, I said, “Wait!” And I ran for the ice cream in the back.

I got chocolate ice cream and whipped cream and peanut butter fudge topping and maraschino cherries. Everyone was laughing at me.

Kate!” said Jake’s girlfriend, in the playful tone she always uses for people who are being ridiculous. “What are you doing?”

“I am making an ice cream sundae,” I said. And then I was sure that I wasn’t going to change my mind and put it all back.

Later that night, I made an ice cream sundae for myself. At the last second, my brother Gabe’s girlfriend asked for one. And we stood there in the kitchen in our bikinis, spooning in enormous mouthfuls of melting chocolate ice cream slathered in whipped cream. I gave us each two cherries.

Now THAT is a vacation.

You know what? I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d eaten an ice cream sundae. I thought that when I get home, I should make them for my friends. It might be a while since they’ve had one too. And it’s nice to relax.


*  *  *

What’s the most recent delicious, decadent thing you’ve eaten?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look with a slight tan. It happened! I think?

P.S. I really like this site– where women write letters to their daughters/all girls. They’re looking for submissions. Wanted to let you guys know.

P.P.S. Stay tuned for cake posts featuring readers! It’s happening! I already have three lined up. If you want to send me a picture of yourself eating cake along with anything you want to share about yourself, a link to your blog if you have one, and an unroast, I’d love to publish it. I’ll also ask you some basic questions, which you can either answer or not. If you already sent me a picture, or have one in the gallery, but feel like being less anonymous, I’d love to do a post highlighting you. Let me know! I want this blog to be more inclusive, and I LOVE hearing from all of you.


Kate on June 13th 2012 in body, family, food, weight

38 Responses to “the ice cream sundae challenge”

  1. Loren responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Your bathing suit.
    It looks amazing.

  2. Kate responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Really?! Thanks!! I have two, and they’re both from H&M. Nothing fancy. I’m never sure what to get. So thanks!

  3. Kim responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    I want an ice cream sundae now. And some donuts. :)

  4. Meg responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    I love your blog. So, so much.

    Posts like this make me smile, and they also make me crave an ice cream sundae. I have chocolate ice cream, coffee ice cream…but no toppings. Unless I smashed up a chocolate bar or two and sprinkled on top? Yeah, that’ll work. Thank you for inspiring tonight’s dessert :)

  5. Kate responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    I’m so glad!

    And wow, yes, smash up a chocolate bar! Brilliant!

  6. Jackie responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    You are beautiful! And your bikinis suit you perfectly :-)

  7. Kiran responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    Should we email you for details on the cake posts/how to participate? I can always be convinced to eat more cake.

  8. lik_11 responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    Yum. I was drooling during the first paragraph :)

    You look amazing in your bikini atop Bear’s shoulders! So glad that you’re wearing sunscreen.

  9. Val responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    You look lovely, slender, feminine. I really do think weighing what you want to weigh is a pretty important element of self-determination.

    If you ever do actually get chubby, pretty sure you can go on a diet.

    No worries. love, Val

  10. Kate responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Yeah, I feel like I’m terrible at explaining things. I don’t know why.

    Feel free to email me, and I’ll try to explain better. But if you just start by sending me a cake pic, we will work from there, adding whatever details about yourself you’d like to share.

  11. Kate responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Honestly, I sort of agonized over posting that picture, because I really think I look terrible in it. This goes to you, too, Val– my arms look huge to me in it. I look sort of lumbering, and not in the least bit slender. But whatever. I’m having fun! And wearing sunscreen! And that, in the end, is the point. (the fun, mostly, not the sunscreen)


  12. D responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    I’m glad you made those sundaes. Enjoy that vacation! The last decadent, delicious thing I ate is a tie between key lime pie and breaded, fried oreos. SO. GOOD.

  13. Sheryl responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    I’ve been very carefully considering the idea of a bikini for this coming summer (I need a new suit, so I already have a reason to spend the money) and the answer I’m coming to is: Why the heck not? So I think I’m going to buy a bikini. And wear it, and to heck with what anyone else thinks.

    As far as the most decadent thing I’ve eaten recently? Possibly icing sugar donuts. Possibly coke bottle gummy candies. Possibly the ice cream I intend on having for dessert tonight. Hopefully the ice cream I am having for dessert tonight.

  14. Kiran responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Yeah, I feel like I’m terrible at explaining things. I don’t know why.

    Unless I really sit down and think about it, and type, and then revise, and then go away from it for a bit, and double-check it, I will always miss something in an explanation. So not to worry. I’m going to find a marvelous cake, and then eat it too (and have a pic taken).

  15. Sam responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Yum, I’m pretty sure I need to have ice cream now. Right now. Good thing there is an ice cream truck parked right outside my office building. Love working in NYC, mostly for the ease with which I can acquire a snack at any time of the day.

  16. Frankie responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    You look wonderful in your bathing suit! An icecream sunday sounds so amazing… it has been way, way, way too long since I’ve had one. Even if I have icecream like everyday. Glad to hear you remembered sunscreen for your head. I was concerned.

  17. Emmi responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    A few months ago a gelaterie opened up just down the street from my apartment, right by the marina. My husband and I walk down once every week or so and slurp our gelato while watching the boats. The wonderful thing about gelato is that the flavor is so intense that you don’t have to eat a large amount of it, it’s so delicious! But the walking gets us moving at a time when we’d just be sitting around, and it’s something fun to do together.

  18. Melanie responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    You look really good in that suit. Good choice!

    I had a huge torta last Friday. I usually eat half and save the rest for some other time, but I ate the whole thing. I am learning to get rid of eating guilt. No longer saying foods are “good” or “bad” have helped a lot. I don’t believe in “never” foods. I believe everything in moderation, and if I want to eat a cup of gelato, I eat it, and there’s no guilt whatsoever. It’s a nice feeling. I am still getting used to it because I spent so many years punishing myself if I didn’t eat the “right” things.

  19. Katharine Lilley responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Are you serious?????? THIS is your bikini body? You look amazing!
    I am 31 weeks pregnant with baby #3 right now and while I am not a bikini girl (I like retro suits like this one: my non maternity suit ), it is quite liberating to rock my pregnant body at the pool with cellulite on my thighs, my bigger bum and my baby cradled like a basketball up in my ribs. Isn’t it funny how worried we are with the anticipation of swim season, but when we actually get out there and bare it, it’s really nbd? You are gorgeous!

  20. Tracey responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months and after today’s post I just have to tell you, how much I love reading your posts. :-)

  21. Karen responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 4:09 pm #


    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and I think this post is the best thing I’ve ever laid eyes on.

    I lost over 40 pounds last year, both by way of Weight Watchers and an unhappy marriage. My marriage ended in October and (after a lovely little guilt spiral) I decided that I needed to take care of ME, for once. I may have gained some weight back but you know what? My new boyfriend thinks I am beautiful this way. More importantly, *I* think I am beautiful this way. I feel pretty freaking comfortable in my own skin and, dammit, if I want ice cream, I am going to eat it! Everything is OK in moderation and life is too short to deny yourself 24/7 because of what other people may think. I think my most empowering moment was when I went out to dinner with my parents and ordered dessert. My father said, “Should you be eating that?” I looked him right in the eye and said, “Yes. And it is delicious!”

    Oh, I also cut off all my hair and look as fierce as I feel ;)

    You’re a gorgeous, smart, funny and talented inspiration.

    <3 Karen

  22. Jenn responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    I’ve read your blog for awhile, and the way you talk about your arms/body and body image made me think you would actually have looked heavier. It’s odd to imagine someone so slender talking nonstop about poor body image and trying to accept herself.

  23. Kate responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    I get comments like this from time to time. People sometimes say, “But you look good! So why do you feel bad?” or “but you look thin, so why are you talking about body image at all?”
    I think this exposes a huge misunderstanding about body image. Most women, in my opinion, look good. And yet so many of us struggle with our appearances. The point is not “what is real,” but how we feel about ourselves.

    I don’t think I’m overweight, but I’m certainly the heaviest I’ve ever been, and while that might not look heavy to you, it feels heavy to me. And that’s what I write about. The way I feel. The way I perceive myself. Maybe sometimes I’m being ridiculous, but it’s my goal to address the ridiculousness that all of us experience when we are so critical of ourselves and the way our bodies are naturally. I “talk nonstop” about it because I want to explore, in an honest way, why body image works the way it does.
    I think it’ll probably make sense if you think about it a little more. You’ve probably even felt unrealistically about things yourself before :-)

  24. Kate responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    Good for you!! It sounds like you came through a very, very difficult time with flying colors. I’m glad that your current boyfriend likes you for who you are, and appreciates the way your body looks. And maybe your father should have had some dessert, too! Hopefully next time… :-)
    Thank you so much for the compliments, and for reading <3

  25. G responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    A slice of a four layer chocolate cake!

  26. Gaby responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    Kate, you are amazing! It’s important that you can eat cake and ice cream and be normal and beautiful and human. I missed seeing you this weekend, especially because I saw several beautiful bald women actually and they all made me think of you! There was one woman in particular who was completely shaved, in a long flowy green summer dress, a tattoo on her shoulder and chunky necklaces. She was with her boyfriend at the Irish memorial way down where the ferries are. Her boyfriend had fluffy curls but she was stunning! And confident and her boyfriend (or whatever he was ) couldn’t take his eyes off of her, while she was more absorbed in the conversation and looking out into the water. It reminded me of you.
    As much as I missed you I’m so happy you’re relaxing and eating sundaes in your bikini and bonding with your brothers girlfriend. Enjoy your vacation!

  27. mamallama responded on 14 Jun 2012 at 2:15 am #

    So this evening, after picking up girls at youth group after a long hard day of homeschool girl-talk time in the morning and driving to lessons & appointments in thunderstorms in the afternoon, we had to get gas into the car. I asked how youth group dinner was, and they said it was OK, but they were still hungry. I said we should go to our tiny local Ice Cream store after getting the gas. So we did.
    Usually, we’re a one-scoop-on-a-regular-cone, maybe a baby scoop, kind of gang. But tonight, we all knew we needed a little something special, a little something just right, something just happy now. First daughter got caramel-swirl with soft cashew brittle in a home-made waffle cone. Second daughter got 2 scoops in a regular cone–salted caramel and cakey dough. I got kiddie scoops of cashew-brittle AND salted caramel in a waffle cone. Dad got chocolate ganache and salted caramel and actually got it in a waffle cone, though he did get kiddie scoops. It was Perfect. So creamy, salty, caramel-ly. Sweet crunchy brittle and fresh crisp cone. Second daughter took a couple bites of my cone, so we all had some. We were all very happy and came on home.
    When I wanted to read something other than news & weather, I was so pleased to find your blog–on ice cream today–at the top of my blog-list. Some other homeschool mama recommended your writing to me. I’m surely enjoying it. Almost as much as that cone!

  28. Lynn responded on 14 Jun 2012 at 7:54 am #

    Eating ice cream sundaes in your bathing suit by the ocean? HECK YEAH THAT’S A VACATION!!! So jealous, so happy for you!!! Last decadent thing I had to eat? Probably the chocolate milkshake I had with lunch yesterday ;) I loooove ice cream sunades, haven’t had a proper one in ages, tomorrow is payday and I’m gonna buy sundae fixin’s and remedy that ;)

    I straight up do not have the guts to wear a bikini, haven’t worn one since I was a kid. It’s not my arms, legs, or my cleavage, just my tummy….that will be a real moment of victory for me, when I’m not self-conscious about my stomach anymore….

    You, however, look amazing :)

  29. Caitlin responded on 14 Jun 2012 at 9:07 am #

    I don’t want to sound snarky, and I know that to you, you’re “heavy” because this is the heaviest you’ve ever been.
    But try and enjoy yourself. I’ve never worn a bikini, because the lightest I can remember being is 200 lbs (I’m 5’6″) and I’m almost 270 lbs now. You have no idea how lucky you are.

  30. Maja H responded on 14 Jun 2012 at 11:03 am #

    My most recent delicious, decadent thing is the cake I made for my boyfriends’ birthday this week. Chocolate chip banana cake drenched in chocolate frosting. I also chopped up his favorite corn chip/chocolate candy and piled on top so that the candy stuck to the frosting. Two little 4 or 5-inch-across cakes, one for each of us. We ate every single bite. So good!

  31. Jenn responded on 15 Jun 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Fair enough.

  32. Kate responded on 15 Jun 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    Hey, that was cool of you!

  33. Laura S responded on 16 Jun 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    I love that you ate icecream and doughnuts on your trip. It’s a vacation like you said, not temptation island where you can only look but never touch!

    I’ve been trying to lose the weight I gained since I graduated university (30lbs in the last year) and today my mom asked me how the weight loss was going. I just grunted and continued flipping through my phone. She started to lecture me on calories in vs calories out then left.

    Tonight she made Shortbread cookies, Rhubarb dessert, and Chocolate chip macaroons.

    I took a macaroon while she was on the phone and I ate it while I read this entry. That macaroon was the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in weeks. I do not feel guilty about it thanks to you!

    PS: you look fantastic in your pictures! Let loose and enjoy yourself! Go Icecream sundaes!!

  34. notemily responded on 17 Jun 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    So, as someone who has IBS and therefore can no longer eat ice cream without physical pain, I want everyone else who CAN eat ice cream and enjoys eating it to eat as much as they damn well want because ice cream tastes amazing and I wish I could eat it and if I could eat it again I would not worry about the calories or whatever I would just enjoy that shit because that shit is delicious.

    In conclusion, eat ice cream. Enjoy ice cream. For me. For yourself.

  35. Gracey responded on 18 Jun 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Yay for this post. The whole way through I was thinking of that old Louis Prima song ‘Banana Split for my Baby’. You should give it a listen some time. I really love it because there’s no food guilt in it at all- it says “serve my gal a mess of calories” but like that’s just a descriptor, a good thing. The whole song lists the things she likes best that he should remember to put in it, in ridiculous quantities just because she loves them. Best line- “give her two spoons, she’ll eat it with both hands”!

    The first listen I thought it was some weird thing about only girls liking desert because the singer orders “a glass of plain water for me” but the punchline is that he’s out of money! I just can’t imagine a song being that food positive today.

    Sorry if that was off-topic a bit, I just wanted to share x x

    Thinking about it, a lot of of 30s era swing songs are about food. Maybe that’s why I like them so much!

  36. Rachel responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    Thank you for this, it’s awesome. I’m having a sundae with REAL whipped cream and TWO cherries tonight :)

  37. Amanda responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    @ Jenn, I often have the exact same thought when I read this blog, because clearly she is not someone who is anywhere near overweight. And I have mixed feelings, because I think it is really really important to know that many women, even those who are thin, feel bad about their bodies. But on the other hand, sometimes I think “oh god, if she looks like that and thinks she’s too soft/jiggly/huge/etc, I must be DISGUSTING” and then other times I just figure she has serious body image problems she needs to deal with. We’re all just trying to figure it out, I guess.

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