“Do you eat cake?”
With my birthday this week, I am reminded of a question that I get asked fairly frequently from health coaching clients and friends alike: “Laren, do you eat dessert?” You may be surprised to know that yes. Yes, I do. Albeit rarely. If you’ve read my book or my blogs or my Facebook posts, you know that I’m not a fan of sugar. In fact, I just posted on Facebook this morning how if you could do just one thing to improve your health it should be to reduce your sugar intake with a link to an article linking sugar to breast cancer.
But ya gotta live life, right? I want people to enjoy life, especially life’s celebrations. I encourage people to sit down to meals together, share their lives and enjoy the food. So how do you reconcile the dangers of sugar with enjoying life fully? Follow my three tips below that I follow myself and that I offer clients in my health coaching practice.
1) Use the 80/20 Rule. This is a great rule to keep life in balance. This is to eat 80% food that is nutrient dense, whole foods and 20% foods that bring you joy. Some people get joy from whole foods (like my husband) and love them because they are good for them, but most of us are eating the opposite proportion – more like 20% nutrient rich foods and 80% whatever tastes good. If we bring a little more awareness to our food, start eating way more vegetables and unprocessed foods, our bodies will have the nutrition they need for our cells to function optimally and the other 20% won’t be too much of a problem.
2) Eat dessert only on special occasions. This may sound obvious, but I encounter so many people who eat dessert every day and some after practically every meal. It used to be that sugar was very expensive and treats were made only a few times a year. This kept people healthier even if they didn’t realize it. Now with the manufacturing of cheap sugar like high-fructose corn syrup sweetening everything from beverages to breakfast cereal to condiments and pasta sauce, we are inundated with sugar and it is wrecking havoc on our health. I like to follow this “only special occasions” rule and have dessert only on my family’s birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even on those special occasions, I follow the next rule as well.
3) Be like the French and only eat three bites. French women self-regulate amazingly well which is how they can live among amazing pastries and cheese and wine and oh my god, everything is delicious and decadent in France (I used to live there). So the way they stay slim is by establishing self-control. French women claim that the first three bites of dessert are the best and I can get that. The first is definitely when your tastebuds begin to dance, surprised by the amazing flavors. The second bite you know what’s coming and can thoroughly enjoy the mouth feel, the texture, and nuances in flavor that you missed the first time. By the third taste, you’ve experienced the dessert fully and can put your fork down. Eat slowly, enjoy fully and you can definitely be satisfied with three bites.
4) Here is a fourth bonus tip from my mother: There is certainly no lack of cake/ice cream/donuts/croissants in the world. You can always have them another day.
In my experience, sugar is a slippery slope, for me as well. Read my previous blog post about why sugar is bad for you and why you should cut back. On Thursday, I will be thoroughly enjoying my Gluten Free, Dairy Free Chocolate Cake (pictured above). It is seriously the best cake.
To your health,