Author title – Chrissy Kapartis
“But sugar is bad for you!” How many times have you heard this statement? In today’s “health” conscious society, these words are considered fact, the denial of sugar is considered key to have a “healthy” diet. Sugar itself is a type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are a food group. So, in short, restriction of a food group is considered key to a healthy diet. That to me rings a bit illogical. And if the thought “oh but I don’t need sugar to survive in the same way I need protein” should come to mind, read on! In this blog post I’m setting out to show you that though you won’t die if you don’t eat sugar, sugar is still key to having a healthy and happy lifestyle- particularly psychologically.
There are many studies that apparently prove that sugar is detrimental to our health. Likewise, I’m sure there have been studies to “prove” that most foods are detrimental to our health. However, if we explore this so called fact a little further, there is nothing really factual about it. I am no expert nutritionally on this or in any way. I only have my own experience to draw on. As someone with an eating disorder, at the worst of my illness I of course feared sugar- the messages I got throughout my life from those around me, the media and my illness combined provided enough “evidence” for me to live in fear of it.
However, as I speak 11 months into my treatment, drawing purely on my experience and knowledge both nutritionally and emotionally, I can safely say that neither sugar nor any food is “bad” for you. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As my recovery progressed and I introduced sugar and desserts back into my diet, I have learnt so much- both about the goodness of desserts and the goodness of my body.
So first I’m going to talk about the 7 different types of hunger. These might sound a bit of a foreign concept- they certainly were to me when I first learnt about them- but they certainly can widen one’s perspective into the importance of allowing yourself to eat and enjoy whatever you want, and what your body needs.
The 7 different types of hunger are: eye hunger, nose hunger, mouth hunger, stomach hunger, cellular hunger, heart hunger and mind hunger. I won’t go into too much detail, but learning about these hungers are part of the process of mindful eating (which is an amazing process which teaches you to be connect with your body and nourish it according to it’s signals.) So, here’s a brief explanation of the 7 hungers:
- Eye hunger: wants a particular food based on it’s colour, texture and how it looks.
- Nose hunger: wants a food based on it’s smell and taste.
- Mouth hunger: wants a food based on it’s texture, taste and how it feels to chew it.
- Stomach hunger: wants food when it is empty.
- Cellular hunger: wants food based on what your body’s cells need- do they need a solid, liquid, vegetable, carb etc.
- Heart hunger: wants a food to be comforting and to fill an emotional void- however, no real food can fill this hunger, it must be met with intimacy.
- Mind hunger: the logical, thinking hunger- this is the hunger that needs awareness of the body to be filled. For example, If you can feel your body craving meat or vegetables etc, your mind will tell you that you should opt for those options.
These are all hungers which must be satisfied when one is sitting down to eat- so basically it’s not about what’s the “better” option- the question to be asked when one is deciding to eat is “does this food excite all my sense hungers?” Of course the way to get in touch with all these hungers is to work on gaining a stronger connection to your body and so being able to hear what it is asking of you.
As I said, it’s not just one of the hungers that’s more important, its all of them. This is because if one or more than one is continually not satisfied, then an instinctive need is not being met. So for eye hunger- if the cake, biscuit or ice cream looks good then obviously eye hunger wants to have it. So does mouth hunger which is craving the sweetness. Cellular hunger, if you don’t allow yourself desserts, will be craving sweetness too. So all of these sense hungers combined, if not met, go unsatisfied and not nurtured. It’s not a question of “what’s healthy or good for me” because the body is able to process sugar (as long as it’s not taken in excess), just like it can process protein and fats and more complex carbohydrates. A body or your sense hungers go starved if not given all the nutrients and types of foods it needs. And a starved body, in terms of one suffering with an eating disorder, is one that is more prone to bingeing, thinking about food constantly and consequently the person is unable to focus on anything else as they are so deprived and miserable.
We are taught not to trust our bodies as if they don’t know what they are doing and if we don’t control them in militant fashion then they will react in extreme ways. For example, in an eating disordered person’s head, they may feel that their body will balloon in size if it is not controlled. However, the body is the trustworthy one, as it knows exactly what it needs, wants and desires to stay satisfied both physically and emotionally. And lets think of it psychologically- why is it that the sugar cravings can get so bad that you end up eating in excess when given the chance- or it helps trigger an ED brain’s urge to binge? I like to call this “last supper syndrome.” If we don’t allow ourselves eggs- though we love them- then of course our bodies will cry out for eggs! Desserts are no different- they hold their own individual nutritional value, and delectable taste- so if we don’t allow our bodies the sugar it desires then of course it’ll have repercussions. And all of this isn’t the fault of our bodies- its the unhealthy and untrue messages we’ve been taught as well as our disorders. The statement “sugar is bad for you” for example, shows how a message which implants in the head can mean your poor body doesn’t receive all its needs.
Sometimes, people try to “cheat the system” so to speak- like making ice cream out of mashed banana or substituting chocolate for raw cocoa powder or something. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these ingredients…but if what you’re really wanting is a full on dessert with chocolatey goodness, then why try and come up with an alternative? Because it’s “healthier?” In my experience, the way I learnt such things was through messages I received, not listening to my body which is perfectly capable of putting chocolate or sugar to other sweet foods to good use. The endorphins you get from chocolate- for one thing- feel amazing!!
So why are desserts important? Hopefully I’ve outlined some of the basic physical and emotional benefits of giving sugar to yourself. And hopefully I’ve managed to clearly explain them! Really though, when it comes down to it, if you should find yourself asking why desserts are important- there is one main answer.
Which is, in short, they taste f***ing great!