You might notice that for the first time ever, I have posted something on The Happy Gal that is not “healthy” or “low fat.” (Fresh Peach Dessert…also known as Heaven on Earth, and you can find the recipe HERE.) There is butter and real whipped cream in this recipe, and it was actually not a mistake. It belongs on this website because The Happy Gal is a resource for women who want to live happy, peaceful, balanced lives. And I don’t know about you, but for me, butter and whipped cream is definitely a part of that (in the right proportion, at the right time.)
I have lived a lot of years trying to restrict that sort of thing. Chips, candy, any kind of dessert – these were on the naughty list. And I was fantastic at living that way…90% of the time. And then I’d break down, and I mean break down. One cookie? Forget it. Try eight or ten. With only the crumbs remaining, I’d torment myself for my lack of discipline, and suffer from paranoia that I would wear those eight cookies on my thighs for the rest of my life. I would vow to return to living a life free from cookies, only to find myself with a half-eaten package several nights later.
While there are a lot of components that go into this kind of behavior, the part I’d like to address is the collective mentality we have that dessert is “bad.” Ever heard of “sinful chocolate cake?” Or “guilt-free brownies?” Don’t try to tell me that we haven’t assigned moral value to what we eat!
How about some truth when it comes to dessert? Here are five reasons why dessert is actually healthy (again, in the right proportion, and at the right time.)
Dessert is part of a balanced diet.
Hold on…don’t go anywhere. Let’s not talk calories or fat grams. Let’s talk about what our bodies need. We need protein, we need fat, we need carbohydrates. Desserts and other sweets provide some of these things. In the right amount, we are actually providing our body with the perfect balance it needs. But I already know what you’re thinking: how can you know the right balance?
If we listen, our bodies will tell us when enough is enough.
Because we have infused sweet and fattening foods with such moral restrictions, we usually have to disconnect from our body’s cues in order to allow ourselves to have them in the first place. If we are so disconnected from our body in this way, there is certainly no way for us to properly receive the prompt to stop. But when we give ourselves permission to enjoy dessert in a healthy amount, our bodies will usually start telling us when it’s quitting time. We lose interest, we start thinking of something else, it stops tasting as good. Or perhaps we start obsessing about having more. All of these are indicators that we are disconnecting from the experience because our body has had it’s fill.
Interestingly, little kids do this easily. Have you ever noticed the table at a birthday party, strewn with half-eaten pieces of cake and melting ice cream? We were born with the ability to know when enough is enough!
If we deprive ourselves of dessert, we will surely retaliate by overeating.
Just like a toddler that doesn’t like to be told “no,” subconsciously you likely begin to plot your revolt the moment you ban dessert. Ever notice that the diet doesn’t seem to work for too long? We long for freedom in every sense of the word, and when we disconnect from our body’s need for pleasure and balance, psychologically and physiologically we become very cunning so we can get what we want. The bottom line is that the body will always get what it needs, even if it has to resort to irrational, undesirable behavior, such as sneaking cookies or extra bites of cake when no one is looking.
Pleasure is an important part of life.
I remember a “baby blues” night shortly after having one of my daughters. In that strange twilight moment when my hormones collided with lack of sleep and complete and utter overwhelm, my husband pulled a “skookie” out of the oven. (Ever had one of those? Your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough baked in a cast iron skillet, served hot with vanilla ice cream and a little chocolate and butterscotch syrup over the top? One of the essential experiences in life, by my estimation!) Though this was in my era of extreme dietary restriction, I threw all caution to the wind and indulged in a generous piece of “skookie” with all the fixin’s. Bliss, my friends! It was just what I needed – a mini vacation from the pressures of motherhood that were closing in all around me. What I needed was some pleasure, and food can offer that – in the right amount, at the right time. Rejecting dessert can be like refusing to turn on the air conditioning when you really need to cool down – if that’s what your body needs.
Know when you need dessert – and when you don’t.
Tres Hatch, author of Miracle Pill, has said “There is a difference between the way we taste with our mouth and with our entire body 20 minutes after eating, one hour after eating, four hours after eating. Remember there is a front end and a back end of taste.” This post is an introduction into conscious and intuitive eating, and it includes such concepts as listening to your body’s cues, tuning in to your emotional needs, and noticing if you are attempting to fill an emotional void with food. Food can become a great escape mechanism for unpleasant emotions such as anger, depression, rejection, discouragement, frustration…and surprisingly, even excitement and anticipation. Tuning into your body and listening to its’ needs means differentiating between the desire for pleasure and the desire to escape.
Dessert is a natural part of a healthy, well-balanced life. Eaten in the right proportion, at the right time, it can add a sweetness to life that you deserve. So wait for your body’s cue, and then sit down and enjoy a piece of cake. You deserve it!
Image by Sandrine Hudgens at creoleartphotography.com