When It Comes to Sweets, Never Say Never

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For some people, the scariest part of starting off on a new, healthier way of eating is the idea of giving up their favorite sweet treats — forever!

If you’re a cookie-and-candy-craver, don’t despair. Sweets can be part of a healthy, lifelong eating pattern. But for the least harm and — don’t forget this — the fullest enjoyment, they should be eaten in moderation. That means in small amounts, or only a couple of times a week. Even a woman who has made a career out of eating candy admits they have┬ácut back their┬áconsumption to one day a week. Hilary Liftin, blessedly svelte and cavity free, wrote the critically acclaimed, insulin levels, stressing the body’s hormone system and leading to a slumpy, tired “crash.” In other words, it might taste good going in, but a price will be paid.

The price: You’ll get chocolate, sometimes dipping it in peanut butter.

“Once you say it’s OK to eat something, there is no guilt,” Kimball stresses. “You don’t inhale three without tasting them and then taste the fourth. You enjoy every one.”

4 Ways to Stay on Track

The goal, according to Gillespie, is to create your own, long-term eating pattern. “It’s the short-term (on, off, lose, gain) diets that cause the problem,” she says.

Four basic lifestyle changes, made mindfully and over time, can help your diet accommodate the occasional dessert or overindulgence in candy:

  • Reduce portion size. See if your plate looks like a restaurant plate. If so, halve everything on it. Forget the seconds.
  • Eat more often. That’s more often, not more food. This keeps your digestive hormones on an even keel and you won’t get out-of-control hungry. It’s normal to feel a twinge of hunger every three or four hours.
  • Eat more slowly. According to Gillespie, scarfing down dinner too quickly doesn’t let your digestive hormones cycle through. Then, the only way to know you’re done is to feel physically “stuffed,” by which point you’ve probably eaten too much.
  • Exercise. “We’re slugs!” cries Gillespie, who says that after strapping on a pedometer, she found she averages only 2,400 steps a day. “My birds in their cage walked more than I did,” she recalls. Some experts recommend fitting in 10,000 steps each day.

But what if, despite your best intentions, you throw moderation to the wind and have that second piece of cake, or even a whole bag of candy?

“Start anew,” Gillespie says. “You can’t change the hormone response, so forgive yourself and get on with life.”