Oct. 22. 2021
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Do you ever feel out of control or like you don’t have enough willpower around sugary sweets? Do you wish you could mindfully enjoy sweets?

You may have said to yourself…

  • “Once I start I can’t stop.”
  • “Oh no, I could never just have one.”
  • “I can’t keep those in my house — they’ll be gone by tomorrow morning!”

Do any of these common phrases sound familiar to you? If so, you may have trouble mindfully enjoying sweets. 

You’re not alone here! Many of our new Mindful Nutrition Method™ members often share with us that sweets are their “weakness” or that they feel out of control when they’re around sweets. With sweets being a large part of upcoming holiday celebrations, that can make you feel stressed or guilty around those foods.

It’s very common to experience a loss of control around sugar, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Part of a balanced relationship with food is to be able to enjoy the foods that you would like to without feeling out of control or guilty when you do.

So, keep reading to learn why you’re having so much difficulty around these sweets and how you can be more mindful of sugar. 

Why Are Sweets So Irresistible?

So what’s the deal with sugar? Yes it tastes great, but it’s more than that, right? It appears to almost control your actions rather than simply influence your actions. Instead of just wanting to have a bit more, you’re compelled to have more. 

A combination of mindset, environment, and anatomy creates this draw or pull that sugar can have.

So let’s talk about why and how this impacts us when trying to mindfully enjoy sweets! 

Labeling of “Bad” Foods and Restriction

Starting with mindset, we have to discuss the concept of assigning morality to food

What I’m referring to here is when we say nourishing foods are “good”, while more enjoyable foods are “bad”, we’re assigning morality to food. Seems harmless, right? Not quite. 

By creating a negative connotation in our minds surrounding an entire category of foods that we enjoy eating, something called the scarcity mindset is kicked into gear. 

We believe that we shouldn’t have said “bad” food items, so we restrict them to the best of our ability. Maybe we don’t keep them in the house, only have them on special occasions, or only have them when someone offers them to us and we can’t refuse. 

When you’re in one of those situations and do end up having the sweets, scarcity kicks in. Your brain essentially says, “This may be our only opportunity to have this “bad” food, we gotta have it all!”. 

Cue overeating, mindlessness, bloating, excessive fullness, guilt, stress, and resentment. Have you ever experienced that? 

Environmental Cues 

Next, our surroundings greatly impact our choices as well. 

Is there a certain environment you can think of where you consistently feel out of control around food? Maybe it’s buffets at social gatherings, when you order pizza on Friday nights, or at the movie theatre. 

We’re creatures of habit and we love routine. Our environment plays a role in this! If we’re used to, say, eating whatever, whenever we’re going out to eat with friends, a habit has formed. 

Your brain now associates social gatherings with mindless eating. It may have nothing to do with your hunger levels, the kind of food that’s being served, or how you feel that day, it’s simply the environment that’s influencing you.  

This is particularly common with sweets. It can result in you feeling out of control around them simply because your environment is influencing you so heavily. 

Blood Sugar and Hunger 

Next up we have the anatomical reasons why you may be losing control around sweets. 

Sweets are made of sugar, which is a type of starchy carbohydrate. Starchy carbohydrates are the body’s primary and fastest source of energy. That means the body needs it to feel energized, and is able to turn it into energy faster than any other food item. 

So what does this have to do with that mindless feeling we’re discussing? 

When blood sugar is low, and we’re not feeling energized, the body looks at sweets like a gold mine. The body craves them and compels you to eat them because it needs to bring blood sugar up. It can make you feel out of control and completely mindless around them. 

Low blood sugar can happen as a result of not eating enough starchy carbohydrates (whether intentionally or unintentionally) or an overall restricted intake of any and all foods. 

5 Tips For Mindfully Enjoying Sweets

Intentionally eating mindfully will allow you to enjoy sweets with ease. Part of a positive relationship with food, which is needed for long-lasting and supportive eating habits, is to be able to enjoy the foods that you would like to without feeling out of control or guilty when you do.

1. Start With Eating Balanced Foundational Five Meals

Eating Foundational Five meals allows you to nourish your body with the fuel it needs.

When you’re nourished, your blood sugar levels are managed so you won’t experience extreme spikes or drops that may make you feel compelled to eat more of those sugary sweets. This results in you secondarily, naturally eating less sugar. 

You instead feel hunger and satiety as your body needs and can enjoy sweets without compulsion when you choose. 

2. Ask Yourself Which Sweets You Really Enjoy

When eating mindfully, you’re able to choose and mindfully enjoy sweets that truly sound delicious to you — the ones you look forward to and can’t wait to have. 

In turn, you’re able to turn away the stale cookies that have been out for hours or the not-so-moist cupcakes that just so happen to be at your work today. 

You’re not saying no to these sweets because you feel like you need to or should, but simply because you know they aren’t really enjoyable to you. You’d prefer to choose the sweets that you think are really good.

3. Try Plating The Sweets You’d Like to Eat 

Oftentimes, where people may find themselves mindlessly eating sweets rather than intentionally choosing to enjoy them, is when they walk by a candy jar and pick up a Hershey Kiss, or there’s a plate of cookies on the buffet and you grab one every time they walk by. 

This really doesn’t allow you to evaluate if you truly want the sweet or actually enjoy it if it is something you really would like. 

Plating your food can be a supportive habit that helps you better pause and reflect on what sweets you’d truly like to enjoy, rather than mindlessly grabbing chocolate from the stash as you walk by.

4. Be Present So You Can Fully Enjoy the Sweets You Eat

Mindful eating is something we practice here regularly at Nutrition Stripped and for good reason — it allows you to connect with your food, appreciates the tastes, texture, and smells which helps you to enjoy your food more and be more satisfied. 

To do this, you have to be present for what you’re eating. That means eating without distractions like the TV, scrolling Instagram or TikTok, or working. A helpful cue to remind you to practice this is to eat at the table where those distractions tend to naturally be less present. 

Then, as you’re sitting to eat and enjoying your sweets, really practice slowly eating it and tasting each bite, and noticing the taste and textures. 

5. Don’t Label Sweets as Bad 

Eating mindfully means eating food for both enjoyment and nourishment, rather than just one or the other. 

If you label sweets as “bad” or “off-limits” or say to yourself you can only have them “just this one time,” you’ll have a stronger desire to eat more sweets. 

Take any holiday as an example. Let’s say there are a couple of desserts that sound really delicious to you. If you go into it thinking, “I’m only allowing myself to have sweets today, and then they’re back off-limits,” you’ll likely end up overindulging and not really enjoying what you eat. Maybe you’re forcing yourself to have a slice of pumpkin and apple pie because you want both but you don’t really have the room. It would be much more helpful to say, “I’m going to have a piece of pumpkin pie now and also take home a slice of apple pie to enjoy as leftovers.”

You’ll then be able to fully enjoy both and you’ll be less likely to overindulge or feel compelled to eat sweets out of scarcity. You instead can choose to mindfully enjoy sweets when you really want them. 

Learn How To Mindfully Enjoy Sweets

Do you feel like you could use even more support to mindfully enjoy sweets?

If so, you can watch our free masterclass to learn how we teach you to be more balanced with your food choices so you can be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body.