Despite the fact that most of this blog is about giving yourself permission with food, the harms of dieting, and nourishing a healthy relationship with food, I really do have a great respect for the science of nutrition. I mean, I am a dietitian after all. Those six years of school weren't for nothing!
Being a non-diet dietitian and caring about nutrition aren't mutually exclusive. That's because taking a non-diet approach actually improves the quality of your diet.
To better understand, I think it's helpful to distinguish between nutrition on a public health level, and on a personal level, using sugar as an example. On a public health level, dietitians should be working to enact policies that have a goal of reducing Americans sugar ntake. If you look at how much sugar the average American eats, it's way more than the upper limit of what's recommended, and we know excessive (not moderate) sugar consumption is tied to a wide range of chronic diseases. So it would be smart to have policies that promote the availability of fresh, whole foods over sweets and sugary drinks.
But on a personal level, having a goal of eating less sugar is more likely to result in your eating more sugar. I think we've all had the experience of trying to stave off a sugar craving by eating a "healthy" sweet, maybe a diet ice cream or a piece of dark chocolate. But what we really wanted was the brownie, and we're gonna eat a lot more sugar trying to not eat the brownie (and y'all know we're gonna eventually eat the brownie...), than if we had just eaten the brownie in the first place.
Thinking of sweets as off-limits turns them into tempting, forbidden fruit. As someone who thought she had an uncontrollable sweet tooth, one of the most interesting discoveries for me as I delved into the intuitive eating process, was learning that I actually don't love sweets. I'm much more of a savory person. Given the choice, I would take a cheese plate over almost any dessert. While I definitely do enjoy many types of sweets (like, a lot) I find I'm satisfied with a pretty moderate amount. And I would never eat a sweet I didn't enjoy just to get a "sugar fix." In fact, my husband and I just trashed a bunch of leftover Halloween candy. We each had a piece or so right after Halloween, but the rest had been sitting out on our counter, untouched for over a month.
If you really want to eat less sweets, you should probably try not trying to eat less sweets. The key to discovering your own moderation (which looks different for everyone) is giving yourself full permission, learning to view sweets as neutral, not bad or good - a normal part of life.
My number one tip for eating less sugar? Bake cookies. Or brownies. Or a pie. Or go out to a really yummy bakery and pick out something delicious. Don't eat "healthy" sweets you don't love simply as a vehicle for sweetness. Let sweets be an enjoyable and normal part of life.
As a side note, if you struggle with binge eating, all this might sound absolutely nuts (actually, even if you don't struggle with binge eating this might seem nuts). I promise, you can get to a place where sweets are a normal and pleasurable part of your life, but you will very likely need support from a dietitian or therapist trained in intuitive eating to get there. Feel free to contact me for coaching (I work with clients in Columbia, SC and throughout the US via videoconferencing) or I'll be happy to refer you to someone in your area.
What's your favorite kind of sweet? I'm an ice cream kinda gal, especially unique flavors or really good ice cream with lots of chunky, cookie, yummy things in it!
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