Curbing the Sweet Tooth
“Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you.” Even endearments in our culture, such as “honey” and “sweetie” reflect our obsession with sweets, says Holly Anne Shelowitz. Sugar is an acceptable addiction in our culture, despite the serious damage that over-consumption can have on our health, she says.
Shelowitz, a certified holistic health counselor who lives in Woodstock, provides nutritional counseling at Woodstock Women’s Health, a new women’s holistic health center on Rt. 212 in Woodstock. She will discuss the emotional, physiological, cultural and spiritual reasons for sugar cravings and how to deal with them in her workshop for women on “A Sweet Life,” May 6, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Woodstock Women’s Health.
Often, when someone has regular cravings for sweets, it’s from a combination of the food she is eating and the way she is living, says Shelowitz. “For example, if someone is working all the time, eating on the run, doesn’t have a lot of touch or nurturing in her life and is not getting enough sleep, her body will crave sweets. This is because the body knows when you eat sweets, it will get energy.”
When you eat sweets, you get a burst of energy, and then you crash, feel depleted and subsequently crave more sweets. Your blood sugar goes up and you’re in a ping-pong, addictive cycle, Shelowitz says. “That’s why people get stuck and it becomes a way of life,” she says.
In addition to eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water (six to eight glasses a day) is important in keeping your energy up. “When you’re dehydrated, your body loses energy and knows that once you have something sweet, you’ll get an energy burst,” Shelowitz says. “If you’re not giving the body what it really needs, you’re putting a lot of stress on your organs.”
Women have a particular love affair with chocolate – it’s very sensual, the way it melts in your mouth, she says. Often, when women are not getting enough sensual satisfaction, they’ll go for the chocolate. There are even hormonal reasons for this, according to Shelowitz: chocolate is high in magnesium and women in a premenstrual cycle need magnesium.
Spiritual reasons for sugar cravings, she says, come from not following our authentic desires in relationships, in work, in who we spend time with, in where we live, and in not having good quality solitude.
“There’s an underlying dissatisfaction we’re trying to satisfy with food,” Shelowitz says.
Culturally, in addition to terms of endearment, sweets are associated with happy occasions that go back to our childhood. “What do we have for birthdays? Candy and cake and ice cream,” Shelowitz says. When we’re feeling down, subconsciously we’re going to want to eat the food we have happy associations with. But it doesn’t work, because it’s temporary and we crash, she says.
The answer to our sugar cravings is a combination of healthy food, drinking plenty of water, regular exercise and enough sweetness in our lives that isn’t on our plate.
Sweetness in our lives might include time spent in nature, nurturing touch, relaxing and having fun, creative expression and whatever is pleasurable and healthy, Shelowitz says.
“It’s important to look at what aspirations you have in your life that may not be being addressed. If you move through your life not doing things that spark you, your body and soul get really depleted and you crave foods that make you feel better, such as sweets,” she says.
She cautions that before you get started on changing your diet and lifestyle, it’s important to have the support of a health practitioner. “It’s hard to get started on your own,” Shelowitz says.
Laurie Deutsch Mozian, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at Vassar Brother Hospital in Poughkeepsie, agrees that if people are not happy in relationships or work or other areas, they very well might use food to soothe themselves.
“Sugar is a real issue in our society,” says Mozian. “But the question is, how to change this without a total lifestyle upheaval. As a nutritionist, I would focus more on trying to get people to eat a balanced diet.”