I’m going to come right out and tell you, it’s my belief/observation/experience that when we attempt to permanently eliminate things that bring us joy, we often fail, become miserable, or become rebellious.
Sweets – and sugar in general – definitely can incite that type of reaction!
Sweets are an important part of most celebrations, holidays, and cultures. Sweets add variety, texture, and taste to our cuisine.
I hear so many women with PCOS saying that the only way to achieve control of their bodies and brains is by eliminating all sweets, and I just don’t agree. I’m more of a believer in a moderate approach, although I totally get that for some people, abstinence is the only way to go. It’s just too hard to have the option, or it gets out of control quickly.
So let’s talk about the moderation approach – having a little, mindfully, so you can derive maximum pleasure with minimal health impact. Because the truth is, a little sugar every now and then is not going to hurt if it’s done in context of an overall healthy eating program.
But I could eat sugar like it’s my job; what makes the sugar cravings so strong?
When you have insulin resistance, as most of us with PCOS do, your cells aren’t processing sugars properly. When you eat, as food gets digested, the nutrients are released into your blood stream. They’re supposed to fuel you. But when that doesn’t happen correctly (insulin resistance), you can eat and end up with that starving feeling a little while later.
You might even get that “hangry” feeling, and then you’re scrounging for everything carby, fatty, salty, crunchy, sweet – maybe all together – because it gives you a sugar boost, which is calming and soothing. You get a dopamine boost too – that’s the hit of “AHHHHHH….YES…JOY!” that your brain issues when you get carbs, or other pleasure hits the brain hard (think drugs, gambling, sex addiction, etc.).
What are some better food choices?
First, make sure you’re eating enough protein. We tend to crave sugar when we’re not getting enough protein. How much is enough? That’s a huge debate. You’ve got to experiment and see. Make sure you get protein with every meal and snack.
Then, make sure you’re eating enough vegetables. I’m talking four or five half-cup servings at each of lunch and dinner, plus a couple of fruits. Vary what you’re eating from day to day, and meal to meal. You’ll get all sorts of micronutrients that your body and brain are craving, and may find you’re not that interested in sweets after all.
But what about the sweets, Dr. Gretchen?! You said we get to eat sweets!
Yes, you do!
Now, pick the thing you really love. Not just like. LOVE. And program it into your food choices, so you’re managing the carb count, calorie count, or whatever you’re tracking, if you care to track. In other words, give up a slice of bread for a piece of chocolate. Skip a glass of wine to eat a scoop of ice cream.
Get into the proper mindset. Feel entitled to this food, whatever it is. Because you ARE entitled. We’re all entitled to savor and anticipate our food. We deserve to enjoy our food thoroughly. Plan to enjoy it.
Now enjoy the heck out of it! Really savor. Don’t hide out and stuff it in your face as fast as possible. Buy the best you can get your hands on – super-premium ice cream, European chocolate, pastry from the really good bakery. Take your time. Twice as long as you would ordinarily take. Notice all the flavors, textures, colors, and beauty of what it is you’re eating.
Thank yourself for giving yourself this wonderful, amazing, mindful pleasure. This is some serious mental nutrition!
Struggling with allowing yourself a little treat now and then? Click here to get your copy of my free publication, Savor Your Sweets.” It’s full of recipes, tips, and tricks for having more of what you want.