Folks who know me in person know that I love candy/sweets and that I eat them regularly. I’ve always been a fan of desserts, but I haven’t always enjoyed them in a balanced way. Nowadays, I’m grateful that I have the freedom to enjoy my favorite foods without feeling guilty afterwards. The title of the post is a bit misleading because I won’t be discussing the contents of my candy cabinet (pictured) as much as my experience getting to a place where I could keep candy around the house without feeling crazy.
I used to have a really unhealthy relationship with sweets.
In the past, I believed that desserts were “bad.” At first, this was because I had been told that sugary foods would cause health problems later in life, like heart disease and cancer. (I’ve since learned that this isn’t true.) I was also concerned that enjoying dessert would have a negative impact on my athletic performance (I was a competitive cross country runner). But eventually, I became really scared that eating candy would make me “fat.” So, I tried to avoid it as much as I could.
What ended up happening is I would spend an enormous amount of time and effort trying to not eat candy, but at the same time, this led me to crave it. (Kind of like trying not to think about a pink elephant makes it so that a pink elephant is the only thing you can think about.) I also was not eating enough in general, so my body was starved for nutrients in general. Really, I craved everything, not just sugar. Sometimes I’d try to fulfill my cravings by eating “healthy” versions of my favorite desserts (i.e. vegan black bean brownies without oil or sugar) and I’d end up eating 4 or 5 of them. The result of that would be feeling bloated but still unsatisfied, which often would then lead me to a) feel terrible about myself and b) ravenously eat candy anyways.
I eventually stopped fighting against my body, and started listening to it instead.
That statement sounds really simple, but the journey to becoming an intuitive eater was anything but. I spent years reconciling with my body and surrendering my obsession with thinness. I had plenty of bad days, and it ultimately was a circuitous path. But I eventually started allowing myself to eat desserts when I had cravings for them. Eventually, I noticed that my cravings actually became less intense and less frequent.
At first, I found myself eating desserts almost daily, sometimes multiple times per day. I’d been avoiding them for so long that finally giving myself permission to eat them led me to a temporary period of “overdoing it.” Sometimes I’d feel a little sick afterwards, but sometimes I’d be amazed to find that a few bites was enough to satisfy me. Over time, I stopped craving them so often, and slowly they started to accumulate in my fridge and pantry, going uneaten because I wasn’t constantly thinking about them anymore. I also developed a sense of trust in myself. While I’d previously believed that I couldn’t control myself around sweets, I came to realize that trying to control my consumption of sweets was the real problem.
Now, I eat sweets when I feel like it, and don’t when I don’t.
If someone offers me a dessert and it sounds good, I eat it. If I’m not hungry, or the type of food doesn’t seem like something that will be satisfying (if I’m craving salt, for example) I either decline the offer, or save it for later. I love that I don’t feel compelled to eat something just because it’s there, but know that if I want to eat it, I can. For example, I’ve learned that I don’t really like cake, but I love ice cream. So, I can make a satisfying choice by eating the latter if it’s available, and declining the former. Giving myself permission to eat my favorite foods helps me enjoy them in a balanced way, while honoring my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Overall, my obsessive fear of sweets was a huge detriment to my health. It was consuming my thoughts, distracting me from other responsibilities. It was also leading me to eat food in an unbalanced way, causing stress, both physical and psychological. Another less-often considered side effect was that my fear of dessert was a form of spiritual idolatry: I was prioritizing my dietary rules over my relationship with God.