5 Reasons why you NEED dessert Every Night
You just had a really great meal. You savored every bite and are leaving the table pretty satisfied and full.
But, what’s this?
You feel a bit unsettled. You can’t seem to carry on with your evening. You’re distracted and a bit antsy.
You’re craving dessert. You expect dessert. And not having dessert makes you feel like something is missing - even if you had dessert earlier or are not even physically hungry for it.
So - this nagging dessert fairy keeps poking you on the shoulder urging you to rummage through the cabinets, check the freezer (hey, even freezer burned ice cream is better than nothing) and raid the remnants of your kids Halloween stash that they’re still keeping in their closet even though it’s August. (oh wait, is that just me?)
This is the point where you start to bargain and reason with yourself.
“I deserve to have something sweet - I worked hard all day”
“But, that’s silly, you’re full! Just go do something else”
::Waits 5-10 minutes::
“Nope, that didn’t work, I still want it.”
So, let’s unpack that a bit. Here are the facts.
You’re not hungry You enjoyed your meal. And there is no real reason why you want or need anything else to eat right now. So why are you tormented like this every night?
I’ve discovered at least 5 reasons why this happens, why it’s so hard to change and most importantly, what to do about it. There are more but let’s start there.
You always had dessert after dinner as a child
Many of my clients have shared personal stories with me about how their well-meaning parents rewarded them for eating all their vegetables or finishing their plates with dessert after dinner. The problem with this is twofold. Number 1 is that it sets up a habit loop very quickly in a child’s mind that can become ingrained and then almost intractable even into adulthood. Like pavlov’s dog, soon after that last piece of broccoli is consumed, you just expect the sweet reward for doing something you really didn’t want to do or felt forced to do.
It has become a food script
A food script is simply a food habit that has been deeply ingrained. First, there is a cue to the habit, (i.e. you crave a pint of ice cream when the football game is on). Second, is a routine, (when a commercial is on, you go upstairs for the pint and a spoon). Third, is the reward from the behavior, (pleasure from eating the ice cream). In order to disrupt, circumvent or curtail the food script, you have to change the routine. So, for example, it’s 8:30 pm and you’ve just put the kids down, which may be your cue to head to the kitchen for some cookies. Changing the routine may be as simple as noticing that you’re following your typical food script and you need to do something completely different. As an example, you can consciously avoid the kitchen or take a bath, a walk, or start your bedtime routine instead.
You feel you need to put a period at the end of a meal.
I posted something on my Facebook page a few weeks ago that I want to share. I said, “finish this sentence: It just doesn’t feel like a complete meal without ___________.”
I got answers like “veggies” “protein” and “Bread/Carbs of course. But, the most popular answer by far was dessert. For many, it just doesn’t feel complete without dessert. Even if it’s just fruit, or a square of dark chocolate, dessert often can put that period on that meal and move on.
You’re not getting what you need emotionally during that time of day
The first food you ever ate was sweet. Your mother’s milk or formula also gave you feelings of safety and trust that your basic needs will be fulfilled. For many babies, breast or bottle feeding is a sleep-inducer. As babies we are also often comforted in our mother’s or father’s arms while eating, thereby deepening the connection between sweetness and closeness or sweetness and love. This powerful connection between eating and the regions of our brain connected to safety and comfort gets stored deep in our memories early. So, when we feel bored, scared or angry, stressed or sad, without even thinking about it, we often start to crave sugar or sweets. What we’re actually craving is the comfort and love that we experienced as babies and children. When we can stop and actually recognize this, we can decide consciously to take a different path. But it certainly makes sense then that you might need some cookies and milk before bed to help you sleep, right?
You were lacking fat or protein in your meals during the day
As I’ve discussed in other blog articles, there is a big difference between simply being full and being SATISFIED during a meal. You often will not experience that true sense of satiety without healthy fats and proteins added to your meals and snacks. While having an ample amount of each won’t guarantee that you will not experience sugar cravings at night (because we know it stems possibly from both physical and emotional/psychological reasons) being sated by your meal is very important in being able to feel content and move on to other things. I find that when I eat a meal high in protein at night, I feel so comfortable and satisfied that I don’t even think about food again for the rest of the night.
(note: this is just a solution for the physical cravings, but won’t address habits, emotional & stress eating or other psychological reasons for eating)
Do you crave dessert every night? Does it lead you to have a difficult inner-dialogue with yourself each night where sometimes you resist and other times you can’t? Being aware of the reasons why this happens can help diminish worry or anger about it and help you focus on what can help you feel more calm and connected to what you truly need and desire.
To learn more about my method to reduce or eliminate nighttime eating come join me for a free masterclass - The Empowered Eating Method: 4 Step Framework to End Food Obsession, Eat Mindfully and Find your “feel like myself again weight”
Just click the button below to register and join us for free! See you there. Bring all your questions.