A little sweetness is okay. Eating too much added sugar can set you up for endless cycles of wanting more. Research suggests that too much sweet stuff plays a role in the development of heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. Rather than the common myth of causing hyperactivity, excess consumption of simple carbohydrates zaps energy levels.
Foods made with sugar are delicious and sweet foods have a place in a healthy pattern of eating.
Cravings are complex experiences that can be driven by emotions, deprivation, environmental or social situations, and one’s eating pattern. While we can’t turn off the desire for sweet, we can dial it down by practicing mindful and intuitive eating. This is how we learn to care for ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Consider these 9 tips to learn what, how much and how often consuming sweets honors your personal health and wellness.
1. Increase Your Awareness by embracing the BASICS of Mindful Eating
The BASICS of Mindful Eating were created by Lynn Rossy, PhD, author and expert on mindful eating. This set of guidelines is intended to increase one’s awareness of the physical sensations of hunger and satiety, to bring more pleasure to the experience of eating, and to learn to differentiate between eating to nourish the body and eating to soothe strong emotions with food.
You might discover when you eat with less distractions and more awareness you are satisfied with a smaller amount of your favorite sweets. Here are the BASICS:
- Breathe & Belly Check- before eating, take a few relaxing breaths then check in with your body and ask, are you hungry and how hungry are you ?
- Assess Your Food – bring all your senses to the experience of eating
- Slow the pace of eating
- Investigate your hunger and satisfaction mid-way through eating
- Savor the experience of eating
2. Create Supportive Environments
Set yourself up for success by storing sweets you tend to eat mindlessly out of sight. Eat in places meant for dining – preferably at a table. Eat from a plate or bowl rather than from a package.
3. Ride the Wave
Cravings are a mix of thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Sweet foods light up the pleasure centers in the brain and the brain likes to repeat things that feel good. By becoming aware of what thoughts, emotions and situations trigger your habit patterns, you can learn to be with the experience of a craving rather than always reacting by eating in habitual ways. Explore ways to soothe and comfort yourself in ways that truly meet your emotional and spiritual needs.
4. Be Nice
Mindless eating of sweets can begin with a stream of commentary about what you “should” or “should not” be eating. Truly listen to what you tell yourself and learn how your inner food critic has an impact on you. Practice speaking to yourself in a kind and compassionate voice. Respond to your critical voice with the self-compassionate voice that truly desires your health and happiness.
5. Manage Your Stress
Everyone experiences stress to some degree and that’s normal, but chronic stress wreaks havoc on our health and can lead to stress eating. It causes a higher-than-normal amount of the hormone cortisol to pump through the body. Excess cortisol leads to craving high fat, sweet and salty foods. No wonder it seems difficult to say no to comfort foods! Increase your awareness of how stress affects your body, your brain, and the way you think, feel and behave. Explore ways to release tension and nurture yourself without food.
6. Sleep Well
When it comes to keeping cravings away, sleep matters. The hormone, ghrelin, stimulates appetite and plays a big role in your body’s signals of hunger and cravings. When you deprive yourself of sleep, ghrelin drives hunger and cravings up. Sleep deprivation also affects decision making; you want to be well rested when navigating the multiple decisions you make about food every day.
7. Snack When Hungry and Enjoy Routine Balanced Meals
Eating routinely helps to stay off the blood sugar roller coaster. Protein and fat help slow the digestion of carbohydrates and send messages to the brain to let you know you’ve had enough to eat. Choose a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats at meals and snacks so you don’t crash and crave more sugar. Check in with your belly throughout the day. Eat when you are manageably hungry, before you are starving.
8. Embrace the Power of Protein
Research indicates that a higher protein breakfast improves daily fullness, decreases food cravings and mindless snacking on high sugar, high fat snacks. Experiment with including more protein in your meals to curb your carb cravings.
9. Focus on Whole Foods
Whole foods include quality protein from meat, fish, eggs and or plant sources; healthy fat from nuts, seeds, and avocados; nutritious carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables and fruits. These all help regulate your blood sugar. Avoid the massive spikes in blood sugar levels which lead to sugar cravings by eating whole foods most often.
When you choose to honor a craving, do so with permission and with your full attention. Be patient and practice caring responses and positive self-care habits that meet your own personal needs. When we understand ourselves and meet our true needs, we crave less.
Join me for Mindful & Intuitive Eating
Learning to honor your genuine needs, to nourish yourself well, and to enjoy what you eat without criticism is a process that takes practice. This practice is much easier and more fun, too, with a consistent place to show up and a supportive group of people with the same intentions. That’s exactly what the 5-week Mindful & Intuitive Eating class is for.
If you’d like to get a feel for these practices, join me for the free “taster” class on April 5 from 9:30 -10:30 a.m. EST live on Zoom. The 5-week class begins April 12.
A better, more fulfilling relationship with food is possible, but only through clear intention and a commitment to practice will it come to be real. I would love to share these practices with you and support you on your journey.