Mindful Munching: Dessert
For many of us dessert is a comfort food to help us feel emotionally better. This time of year many of us tell ourselves in an effort to lose weight, we are going to cut out all desserts. This lasts for a few days or may a few weeks until we give in to our desires.
Many of us turn to a sweet after a meal because we feel we deserve a treat or feel physically tired after a long day or we want to join in the fun or celebration with others. Oftentimes we turn to dessert because of habit. Learning to set intentions and pay attention to our dessert habits and desires can be an eye opening, life changing experience. After getting curious and studying our own dessert desires many often find that the sticky, chewy cake we once loved, really doesn’t taste that good.
Mindful eating is eating attention and intention. This can translate into eating slower, eating less, eating without guilt or shame, eating more nutritiously and eating with more pleasure. It may be easy to easy to eat something like simple plain food like broiled chicken breast or carrot sticks mindfully, but navigating dessert can be much more challenging. There are many options for mindfully eating dessert. Here are three to try:
If you notice that you want dessert, take a moment for yourself and ask where this desire is coming from. Pay attention to your mood, the sensations in your body, the thoughts in your head and notice what they are telling you. Do you want dessert because you see a plate of cookies in the kitchen, smell a pie baking in the oven, are you physically tired and looking for a pick-me-up, are you feeling lonely or frustrated and are seeking comfort, companionship or pleasure? Does your body feel physically hungry or not yet satisfied? Stopping and paying attention to your body, thoughts and feelings before eating dessert, or anything, encourages you to make a conscious decision about if and what you will eat.
Eat anything that you want for dessert and enjoy it guilt free, but create a structure around it so that you cannot mindlessly eat. Examples of structure or rules could be:
- I will enjoy ½ cup of ice cream once per day as long as it is scooped into a bowl
- I will enjoy 4 regular size bites of any dessert I choose
- I enjoy dessert on Saturday night
Enjoy dessert when it strikes your fancy, but make it a special treat. Before beginning take several deep breaths. Enjoy dessert in a bowl or on a plate, smell it before you take the first bite, take a good look at the dish before your first bite. When you are ready for the first bite, bring it to your mouth savoring the flavor and feeling the texture in your mouth. Put the spoon for fork down between bites. Take another breath and assess if you have had enough. Know that the first bite is always the best and that when we slow down and pay attention to taste and your body, you may be satisfied way before the dish is complete. Don’t worry about not finishing or wasting uneaten food, you can always save it for another time.
Mindful eating is a time to play with your food. Take this opportunity to learn about yourself, why you are craving dessert, what it really tastes like and how it makes your body feel. Dark chocolate is my favorite sweet. When I started paying attention to when I craved chocolate, I realized that I craved it when I felt tired and when I really started paying attention I realized that it upsets my stomach a little while after eating it. So now, while I still indulge in dark chocolate occasionally I do it with attention and intention, enjoying every bite.