There’s a disturbing trend going on…people aren’t eating enough cake.

You know, since I’m a dietitian, people often get the wrong idea – you think I eat a perfect diet (there’s no such thing), you think I’m evaluating your shopping carts or your choices in the buffet line (I’m usually not), and you think I avoid all sorts of foods that you may classify as “bad”, like dessert, potato chips, or fried food (I don’t use the term “bad” to describe food, unless it’s poorly prepared).

Truth is, I enjoy all sorts of food and always have. I grew up in a family who had a summer vegetable garden and a fruit orchard, and I was taught early on how enjoyable the tastes of fresh foods were. My mother also baked a lot, so we always had cookies, homemade fruit and custard pies, and cakes on special occasions. And we enjoyed every bite.

So how is it that I was able to maintain a healthy weight my entire life? (no lie – I’m currently experiencing the middle-aged spread, but my BMI is still in check). If you believe Gary Taubes, with his ‘sugar is evil’ mantra, you’d wonder how in the world I ate all those carbs (bread and pasta on a regular basis, and all the homemade sweets I chose) and still remained normal weight and healthy? (I prefer Katz’ take on it).

Well, I was an active kid – riding bikes, walking, swimming, playing tennis – for hours and hours a day; and I remain an active adult – walking, running (up until my old knees started hurting), weight-lifting, hiking, paddling, skiing, snowboarding, gardening, yard work (and I’ve always made sure I can do at least ten push-ups). I eat what I want, just not too much. To keep calories in check, I have reduced my overall intake of sweets as I’ve gotten older since my metabolism has naturally slowed, but I do not avoid any type of bread or pasta, sugar, or other carbohydrate (even the “white” kind).

A friend recently joked about watching people “look” at the cake at graduation parties and birthdays, but not “eat” the cake. What gives? Do you really think that a 3-inch-square hunk of cake is going to ruin you? Are you worried that if you ate a small piece, you couldn’t control doing a full face-dive into the remainder of the cake? Over-restricting certain foods or food groups can lead to disordered eating, even if your goal is health.

My advice? Stop obsessing about sugar and carbs, and don’t keep a list of “bad foods I must never eat”. The less you deprive yourself, the more control you’ll have over hunger and cravings. Enjoy as many fruits and veggies as you like, enjoy well-prepared fresh foods, and keep portions of lean meats and grain products small to medium.

It’s all about portion size.

And, by all means, if your hostess went to the trouble to bake or purchase a cake, be polite enough to take a slice of it and let her know how delicious it was. More importantly, enjoy the pleasure of treating yourself without worrying about any dire consequences. As long as the rest of your diet and total caloric intake is on track, your body will be no worse for wear just because you ate and enjoyed some cake.