Dessert. This one word can define the holidays and our waistline.
What’s your pleasure? Cookies, chocolate, or maybe a hot toddy or eggnog. While we may be able to say “No” to these unnecessary delicacies under normal circumstances, the vortex that sucks us in from Halloween to New Year’s Day causes some crazy indulgences to take place.
Are you excited for the holiday parties, but worried about the impending damage control? Do you splurge more because “it’s just once a year?” Do you stash extra treats and binge on it when no one is looking? Or, my personal favorite, eat the entire box of chocolates because, ”if it’s gone, I can’t eat it?”
Throwing up your hands and giving in for the holiday is as much of the season as is shopping and lighting the Christmas tree.
The question is, why?
Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice, That’s What HUMANS are Made of
Humans were designed to crave sweets. At our most primitive state, our body requires glucose for energy. REAL foods such as fruits, root vegetables, grains, and beans give us the sugar we need to balance our bodies. These types of foods contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins. These are the “treats” our body yearns for.
Unfortunately, our current taste buds have been ruined with much more intense sweets…of the refined variety. You know all about that, don’t you? “Sugar is evil” and all of that anti-sugar talk? Well, I will be the first to tell you how dangerous sugar can be, but in order to fight the sugar monster, we need to know why it exists in the first place.
When we ingest refined sugar, we are omitting all the nutrients and enzymes of the WHOLE food and just taking in the table sugar, sucrose. In order for these stripped sugars to be digested, the body must deplete its own stores of minerals and enzymes, leaving our bodies with an immediate deficiency.
First, a surge of sugar is poured into our bloodstream. Immediately, the regulatory hormone, insulin, dives in to shuttle the sugar into your cells. Our brain gets a shot of serotonin and we feel good, momentarily. The rush of the sugar wave leaves as quickly as it came, causing a damaging drop in blood sugar levels.
And we are left with a sugar hangover – lethargy, fogginess, nausea, and guilt, shame and depression.
And after all of that, we want more. Sugar is as addictive a drug as heroine and cocaine.
Embrace Your Cravings
Did you know that your body is trying to talk to you? All day, every day. Just as your heart is keeping you alive every second of every day, your body is speaking to you. It tells you when you are thirsty, when you have to go to the bathroom, when you are tired, when you hurt, when to breathe, when you are hungry (although we rarely get these cues right), and what your body needs to heal itself and live life at optimal functioning. (photo source)
This includes your cravings.
Your body is in a constant state of homeostasis; always striving for perfect balance down to the cellular level. When something is amiss, we feel poorly, we eat differently, and we may crave certain foods. That’s your body trying to take care of business.
Don’t ignore it.
We may see cravings as a lack of willpower or personal weakness. It has nothing to do with willpower. In fact cravings are full of feelings. We have this nasty habit of not wanting to feel. When we experience a craving, we quickly try to numb the feeling. Why? Why can’t we just sit with it? What are we afraid of? Instead, we should listen to these important messages. If we don’t give our bodies a chance to speak, we will miss the warning or the question:
What Does My Body Want and Why?
When we are talking about sugar cravings in particular, there are three possible answers to the question:
Need for energy – sugar is quick energy. It perks us up…then tears us down (remember, it really just robs our bodies of vitamins and minerals) and leaves us craving MORE sugar for MORE energy.
Emotional stress response – We are very busy beings. There is a lot of “doing” and not enough “being” going on in our day-to-day. After a hard day at work or a chaotic day at home with the kids, you crave a release. Our brains are searching for the “feel good” hormones.
Sugar can give you that. It may calm you, give you the feeling you lack in your life, and “reward” you for a long day. In fact, your body is craving sugar in this situation because it feels threatened. Stress tells your body, “There is an emergency! Quick, crave sugar, store fat!” Cortisol and insulin are released to perpetuate this cycle. This is a slippery slope. One that slides you right over to the bowl of cookies.
Nutrient deficiency – Homeostasis. Equilibrium. This is how our bodies desire to live. Every time you eat a processed food (most are full of sugar) you immediately cause an imbalance, and a nutrient deficiency. Shortly after, you are still hungry. Your body craves more food in hope to restore balance. Despite the calories you just ingested, you did not ingest nutrients. Your body is nutrient starved.
The Season of Eatin’
On any normal day, all of these reasons can plague you and make you feel you have no “willpower.” Willpower has nothing to do with it. There are underlying reasons to why you feel out of control. The holidays multiply that tenfold.
The Grinch Who Stole My Energy: How many of you are EXHAUSTED right now? Between shopping, baking, house guests, wrapping, events, school programs, parties, and moving (if you are Katie) most of us don’t hit the sheets until midnight and rarely have a moment to spare throughout the day.
So what do you reach for at the mid-day slump? How about first thing in the morning? What about after the kids are in bed and you still have a laundry list of things to do? “Give me quick energy to get. through. the. day.” Chocolate? Coffee? Both.
Santa’s Sleigh Full of Stress and Emotion: Holidays bring families together, for better or for worse. If you are blessed with utter chaos around the holidays, I can relate. I think I cracked the wine at 11 am on Thanksgiving day when I got to my mom’s house. We all want to create the holiday feeling of love, peace, joy, and harmony. We suffer an emotional toll when things don’t come together as planned.
Maybe sweets are a holiday staple, because we need it to carry on? We need it to numb the emotion we aren’t willing to talk about during this “happy” time of year. So, we reach for the leftover pie and stuff down the emotion to “fix” the problem. Or maybe it was just a really tasty bandaid.
Visions of Sugar Plums: How many bags of sugar did you purchase for your baking? How many cookie exchanges, holiday parties, or gift exchanges have you attended? Each time we choose the sweet treat, we are passing up another nutrient dense food. We are rich in calories, and void on nutrients. You may have a cookie, or two, or ten, and then an hour later you are hungry! Give your body nutrient dense foods first, then indulge if you must. Your body will be much happier.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
It is Christmas. Be gentle with yourself. You are human with human desires…right now, in the form of chocolatey goodness.
You can see that the holidays set us up for failure. We are surrounded by all the reasons to crave and the sweet relief to quench that intense desire. Some of us can get away with it. Others spiral out of control. Enjoy the season, listen to your body, and take it one sleigh ride full of temptation at a time.
When you are unsure, take a deep breath, and convince your body that there is no war to fight. Remember, an “emergency” leads to “crave sugar, store fat”. And DESSERTS is just STRESSED spelled backwards.
Want to know ways to combat these cravings that are overtaking your holiday? Stay tuned for more in the upcoming weeks at KS!
Selena Moffitt is a mom on a mission to help women survive motherhood through simple changes for herself and her family. Her blog 1 Moms Mission provides solutions for improved relationships with God, the Earth, and Yourself. In her spare time, she supports busy women in their quest for RADIANCE as a Holistic Nutrition Counselor. If you want to Rock the Radiant life, visit her new blog at www.RadLifeRocks.com coming soon!