I’m no Catholic but I’m giving up sweets for Lent.
I talk a lot about intuitive eating and my hate of dieting. The second you tell me I can’t have something, I go into this dark place of deprivation and craving. It’s nuts.
For more than a decade I’ve been eating intuitively with success. That means I eat whatever I feel like, without any ‘off limits’ or ‘bad’ foods and my weight has remained steady. I do try to eat healthily most of the time. I love fish, dark leafy greens, brown rice, etc. But if I want cookies or ice cream or french fries or nachos, I have them without shame. And when nothing is off limits, I promise you, you eat moderately.
There was an interesting article in the NY Times about this. Intuitive eating means tapping into when you’re satisfied, not busting-at-the-seams full. My personal definition is eating food that truly satisfies me and tuning into when my body feels sated. You won’t choose the junkie stuff most of the time because that food doesn’t make you feel good.
The problem is, the scales have tipped towards needing sugar everyday, like a drug. In fact, I recently read that sugar is harder to give up than heroine! WTH?! I rarely drink alcohol anymore so my nightly wine habit used to assuage those sugar cravings. I tricked myself into thinking I wasn’t eating too many sweets but I was drinking a couple glasses of wine every night. It’s been over two years since I kicked my wine habit and in those two years my sugar addiction has gotten much worse. I have to address it and here’s why.
I’m eating on borrowed time. I’m lucky my sugar habit isn’t not showing up in my body yet. But I know what’s coming. I’m not yet in the hormone roller coaster of menopause with mood swings, hot flashes and the ring of belly fat that seems to appear overnight! But I’m getting a taste of it in peri-menopause with little symptoms here and there.
I’m interested in gut health and more energy and balancing my hormones but I’m scared of the meno-belly I see over and over. Slim waisted in your forties, then the fifties hit and spare tire city.
First step for me is to try to break this sugar addiction. When I say sugar, I don’t mean the sugar in fruit. I know sugar is in everything from your pasta sauce to mustard! I’m way worse off, I mean desserts – chocolate, cookies, candy – the stuff I eat every night.
I chose Lent because it’s a set season with a start and end date, Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. I couldn’t seem to get going on this goal but with Ash Wednesday a couple weeks ago, I went for it. And as always when I give something up, I hate it. It feels like a diet. I want to eat whatever I feel like and giving up something pleasurable makes me feel diet-y. I don’t like it but I’m doing it anyway.
Here’s how it’s working. After dinner, when I usually hit the cookies, I take a little more time to digest by cleaning the kitchen. I do the dishes, clear off the table and counter top. Then I make a cup of Bengal Spice tea and take a few deep breaths and try my best to be present in the moment. The first few days sucked and then it does get easier. Sugar has a little less power over me the longer I go without it.
As of today, thirteen days in, I feel pretty good. I definitely have more energy in the morning without my nightly cookie habit. I’m down 2 lbs. I’ve been sleeping a little more soundly and I feel more steady energy throughout the day. Less crashing at 3pm. Sweets may creep back in after Easter but I know sugar causes inflammation and disrupts your gut biome so I’ll try to mostly stay on this path.