How to Eat Intuitively by Eating Dessert…Or Not

Growing up, I had a sweet tooth–or at least that’s what I was told. In actuality, I did like to eat sweets, especially chocolate. If you’d asked me, non-chocolate candy was a waste of time because you could alternatively be eating chocolate. I remember doing my best to swap as much of my fruity Halloween candy as I could, in exchange for…you guessed it…chocolate.

But what I’ve come to realize is that there’s no such thing as a sweet tooth. That is, everybody enjoys sweet flavors just like everybody enjoys salty, umami flavors, at least to a certain extent. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that everybody likes eating chocolate, or ice cream, or pie, because obviously we all have our own taste preferences. But even if someone doesn’t like dessert foods (in general), they still enjoy things like barbecue sauce, fruit, or balsamic vinegar, for example, all of which have sweetness as the predominant flavor. I’ve met plenty of people who fall into this category.

However, I’ve also met plenty of people who claim to not like sweets/sweet foods when in reality what they mean is that they’ve convinced themselves that they don’t like desserts as a form of denial from the truth that they’re simply afraid of them. They’re afraid that sweet foods are unhealthy, will cause them to gain weight, will make them bloated, or will make them “fat.” (I use that term in quotations because it’s not an objective reference.)

As I grew out of childhood and my proud affection for chocolate and transitioned into my adolescent eating disorder days, I would have put myself in that latter category. I claimed to not like sweets even though I regularly binged on them.

Part of my fear surrounding sweets came from the fact that I felt like I couldn’t control myself around them. Truthfully, I hated that feeling, and so I extended it to suggest to others that I in fact hated sweets. Feeling out of control is a horrible, horrible feeling.

My fear of (aversion to) sweets came from the fact that I felt like I couldn’t control myself around them.

So, all this to say, I was extremely surprised when I started to become an intuitive eater and gave myself permission to eat as many sweet foods (and other foods) as I craved, that I quickly realized that I wasn’t as “addicted” to them as I once feared. I’ve shared before that I started this journey by eating ice cream at every meal, and was pleasantly surprised that after a few days, the idea of ice cream for breakfast no longer sounded good. After a few weeks, the idea of ice cream didn’t appeal to me much anymore at all. I repeated this process with Oreos, pie, breakfast foods like pancakes and waffles, and a variety of other baked goods. I realized that I don’t generally like cake (there are exceptions, of course) or anything that is vanilla flavored, but fruity candy can actually be a pleasurable snacking experience…if it’s the gummy variety, that is.

Nowadays, I eat something sweet on most days, but not all days. However, I almost always eat something sweet if I am craving it, even if that craving comes on at breakfast. I frequently add chocolate chips to my oatmeal or pancakes, and often eat syrup on my waffles. Sometimes I even eat apple pie (or whatever other leftover dessert is in the house) with a side of scrambled eggs. But interestingly, what I find is that on those mornings, I don’t crave sweets, usually, for the rest of the day even if it is presented to me. In fact, I often find myself feeling more satisfied in general, and that is such a freeing experience.

How to Eat Intuitively by Eating Dessert

Besides the fact that I now give myself permission to eat dessert on a daily basis, eating dessert actually helps me eat other types of foods more intuitively. This is mainly because when I am hungry, I almost always “offer myself” something sweet as a food option. For example, I open the fridge and survey my options for a given meal, and try to find both sweet and savory options. When I consider each option, I ask myself if I will feel more satisfied and generally better after eating that food, or if I will feel generally worse (albeit less hungry.)

This morning, for example, I prepared some frozen protein french toast sticks that I’d purchased from ALDI. I served them with sliced strawberries and syrup, and the first few bites were dreamy. After a few more bites, however, I started to feel like the meal was too sweet for my taste preferences. The french toast sticks were yummy, but they needed to be dunked in something, most obviously syrup. However, the syrup in combination with the cinnamon sugar coating on the french toast sticks was quickly making me feel a little over-sugared, more than the protein in the french toast seemed to be able to balance out. Halfway through the meal, I decided I was done with the sweet flavor even though I was still hungry. So, I left the rest of the french toast on my plate and served myself a bowl of greek yogurt instead, which I enjoyed with the remaining sliced strawberries on my plate. When I was finished, I felt perfectly satisfied and very grateful that I hadn’t forced myself to finish something that didn’t feel good in my body. I have every intention of finishing the french toast sticks tomorrow, but this time with a side of scrambled eggs or more yogurt.

I’ve had the same experience the other way around, too. Many mornings, I leave some scrambled eggs or breakfast casserole on my plate in favor of a brownie or cookie from the night before. And I don’t mean a black bean brownie or sugar free/Paleo cookie either–just the regular old kind, because I know that I feel the most satisfied when I eat the foods I actually enjoy instead of diet-y substitutes.

If you struggle to feel “in control” around desserts, try this:

  • Offer yourself sweets at every meal.
  • Try taking a bite of a dessert before you start your meal.
  • Bake or purchase your favorite desserts for yourself rather than for a special occasion centered around someone or something else.
  • Choose a dessert and be intentional about eating that food every day for a week.
  • Experiment with sweet foods you don’t normally eat.
  • When eating a dessert, check in with yourself after 3 bites, halfway through, and when you’re finished eating. How does the flavor change? How does your satisfaction change? How do you feel, now that you’ve eaten?

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