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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Why you should really eat dessert

May 25, 2011 24 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

cupcake {Image Credit :: Deborah Leigh}

It’s no secret that I am a dessert fanatic. In fact, I eat chocolate every single day – including as I type this because I decided there was no way to write a post on this topic without breaking into the Hershey Kisses. But regardless of whether you’re a bit more vanilla or totally fruity, dessert is a mandatory part of, well, daily life.

I am completely aware that this sentiment may be counter to nearly everything we’ve been telling ourselves for pretty much our entire lives. Somewhere along the line, a while after our parents stopped packing the chocolate chip cookies in our Strawberry Shortcake lunch bags, we decided that eating dessert was a sign of indulgence at best and weakness at worst. We saw digging into the cherry pie as an indicator of how powerless we were over our desires and decided that restraining ourselves meant we had the coveted, mystical quality of willpower.

Well, that’s crap.

Eating dessert doesn’t mean you have less self-control. It fact, it means that you have a solid enough sense of yourself to know what it is your want – and sometimes what you want is white-chocolate raspberry cheesecake. It means you have a level of trust in yourself to know that you can honor your hunger and your cravings.

What eating dessert also means is that you value pleasure, a state that many of us struggle to acknowledge as vital. Dessert represents a sense of bliss – a moment of totally relishing that which makes us feel good. When we repeatedly deny ourselves that opportunity, our view of ourselves as a person who deserves to feel good shifts, and we can even get resentful. [My advice is to stay away from anyone who hasn’t had dessert in over a week. They’re likely to be very mean!]

There are some for whom food and desserts are the only pleasure, in which case it will be important to create space for other forms of pleasure in one’s life, such as through relationships, adventure, sexuality, or relaxation. The goal is not to rob pleasure from the experience food, but to see it as one place to derive pleasure, rather than the only place.

What’s interesting is that dessert has become such a sign of indulgence that others can get a little snarky when it comes to having it. I’ve noticed in my own life that I sometimes get weird looks and comments of, “Oh, you’re having dessert? Really?, or worse, “Well, it’s okay for you because you’re a runner [or work out or must not eat much or some other ridiculous and false rationale.].”

My response is that yes, I really am having dessert (and you should really have it too) and it’s not because I did anything to deserve it. It’s because I love dessert and I love myself. Chocolate cake is not something I earn. It’s something I enjoy and so I give myself because it makes me happy. It offers different flavors and textures than other foods and a unique experience. When we can take all the language of morality and earning and compensating out of what we put in our mouth, it can truly change the way we feel about food and ourselves.

If the person persists, I remind them that dark chocolate (a personal favorite) boosts brain functioning, reduces heart disease risk, and is full of anti-oxidants. Not only that, but desserts can create a sense of pleasure and satiety that can prevent binge eating later. So take a moment to check out the dessert menu – you’ll be glad you did.

Do you eat dessert? How does it affect the way you feel about yourself? What are some of your favorite desserts to make?

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22 Comments

  1. Rosie
    3 years ago

    What a helpful post in shifting perspective. It is so important to not demonize a certain type of food, and to, in fact, allow yourself to take pleasure!

    Reply

  2. PJ
    3 years ago

    This is exactly the type of thinking I am trying to foster. To be able to eat something I want to simply because I will enjoy it – that is how I want to live.
    Desserts I make? Sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce. And vanilla bean ice cream. mmmmm, yummy!!
    PJ recently posted..dealing with being hurt

    Reply

    • KoRi
      3 years ago

      Ohh my.. i totally agree with your comment. You have me drooling over your desserts. How do you make them? Sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce. Don’t talk about the Vanilla bean ice cream= double-yummylicious!

      Reply

  3. Lori Lieberman
    3 years ago

    Great post, Ashley! Two thoughts to add, though.
    I’m clearly all for eating any and everything you enjoy (just scan the food porn on my blog!), but I’d suggest you make eating them its own activity. Multitasking (yes, we’re all guilty of this) detracts both from enjoying it with all your senses and with acknowledging how much you have eaten. So for those just venturing out into this arena, do keep this in mind.

    Also, while I agree completely with everything you stated about dark chocolate, I so prefer to NOT have to justify eating in for “nutritional” reasons. Can’t we just eat it if it’s worthless, except of course for its flavor and texture, and smoothless and mouthfeel…(ok, I’ll stop here).
    Lori Lieberman recently posted..The Halo Effect Your Thoughts About Healthy Foods Can Make or Break Your Weight Struggle

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      3 years ago

      Great comments, Lori! As to the second, I totally agree. There’s really no reason to have to justify any of your food choices to anyone. I actually mention this in my post “I eat chocolate every day.” (http://www.nourishing-the-soul.com/2010/12/eat-chocolate-every-day/) where I say: “And it’s not always dark chocolate and I won’t sit here and tell you that I eat it because it will lower my blood pressure or cholesterol or boost my mood via serotonin, though it certainly possesses these health benefits. No, I eat it because I love it. White, dark, milk, chewy, crunchy, salty… I love it all.” =)

      Reply

  4. Kate @ Walking in the Rain
    3 years ago

    I find personally, the less satisfaction I have in general (be it with work or the foods I eat) the more I’m inclined to mindlessly eat a lot of dessert because I feel like I deserve something. I never enjoy it in those cases, and really the only time I feel satisfied with dessert is when I sit down, order something really good, and slowly savor it.

    I see part of the problem is people feel like they have to be “good” in every aspect of their lives. They eat “good” foods, exercise, and forgo dessert. The focus is less on pleasure and what the individual likes and more on following a prescribed set of rules our society hands out. If more attention was put back into enjoying what we eat and exercising because we enjoy it, then enjoying a little bit of dessert wouldn’t be the earth shattering problem it is made out to be.

    Reply

    • Katie @ Health for the Whole Self
      3 years ago

      I’m the same way, Kate. I’m way more likely to overeat sweets when I’m lacking a sense of pleasure in my life overall. Further proof that our eating habits do not exist in a vacuum; they are directly connected to every other aspect of our lives. The more I cultivate pleasure in my life as a whole, the more likely I am to savor and enjoy my food instead of eating it “just because.”

      Reply

  5. poptartyogini
    3 years ago

    i love dessert! i eat it everyday. i tell my husband ‘i need to get my chocolate on’ and he gets out of the way.

    Reply

  6. Margarita @ Weightless
    3 years ago

    Ashley, wow, I LOVE this post! Thank you for such a thoughtful, sane and eloquent perspective. These are my fave lines; they’re incredibly powerful:

    “I love dessert and I love myself. Chocolate cake is not something I earn. It’s something I enjoy and so I give myself because it makes me happy.”

    I used to think that I had to earn my dessert or that I didn’t deserve to have it in the first place because I wasn’t super thin. Today, I also eat some form of dessert every day, and that makes me happy. Like you said, it’s not the only place where I derive pleasure, but it’s one.

    I’m actually not much of a cook or baker – but I do love to make different types of cookies with my neighbor, and I love chocolate ice cream, especially when it’s so hot out. I also love dark chocolate and brownies! :)

    Reply

  7. Romina
    3 years ago

    wow, i always feelt like i have to earn my dessert and when i eat it for pleasure i have to really concentrate so i dont feel guilty after, this definitely helps me to try look at it form a different point of view!

    Reply

  8. Toby (BodyZen)
    3 years ago

    Great post, Ashley. Thanks again for your wise words and insight. We’ve posted a link to this on our facebook page. Have a great day everyone – and enjoy your desserts! YUM!

    Reply

  9. Kat
    3 years ago

    I ate a sweet potato cupcake tonight in honor of this post. hahaha
    Kat recently posted..Inspired by Serra – my happy place

    Reply

  10. KCLAnderson (Karen)
    3 years ago

    Awesome post!! I eat dessert if I am in the mood for it…these days I have to be careful with sugar and the time of day I eat it, because it can cause me to have anxiety/pounding heart at night. So for that reason, I tend to have dessert in the afternoon versus after dinner. :-)
    KCLAnderson (Karen) recently posted..Fitbloggin Part 2- Equally As Honest- From My Real Heart

    Reply

  11. Mylene
    3 years ago

    ”Eating desert because I value pleasure”’ I really really loves this! I usually eat dessert everyday, but I have learned to eat only those I really enjoy. If I am mindful at the moment I eat it, I can take only a few bites, and it totally satisfy me. I also realized making them, the whole process of baking, the smell when it bake, and sharing it is what I love best. By the time I clean the bowl…I already satisfied my taste buds, I always eat some of the batter! I love best choco-banana bread cookies, and fruit desserts like clafoutis. But I have to say that Jamie Oliver’s brownies are hard to beat!

    Reply

  12. sui
    3 years ago

    While I appreciate the sentiment behind the post, I guess it depends on what dessert is and if people even like it. I’m wary of any statement says “you should” do something in a blanket statement if there are simply people who just don’t enjoy dessert! I don’t much like the way sweets make me feel– physically sick and low in energy. If I want cake, I’m going to eat it, but I don’t *like* eating dessert-like foods every day. And I don’t like chocolate, either! Haha.

    Reply

  13. Cathy Fletcher
    3 years ago

    desserts are a great way to change the taste in your mouth, even when the dinner was wonderful :)

    Reply

  14. my dessert
    3 years ago

    hello!

    Nice post. I will use some idea from this.

    Reply

  15. Cherry Pie
    3 years ago

    Did you just serve your wedding cake, or did you offer another dessert option? If you had another dessert when did you serve your wedding cake?

    We are having a sit-down dinner with a three mini desserts on a plate together for dessert. We are planning to serve our cake as a midnight snack after the fireworks display.

    Reply

    • Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul
      3 years ago

      That sounds lovely! I think there’s no right or wrong way to go about food when it comes to a wedding. We served our favorite ice cream and had cake as a back-up for anyone who didn’t like that. That’s what worked for us and drew on what was special to us. Desserts tend to have such significance, and that’s part of what makes them so wonderful!

      Reply

  16. Joy
    3 years ago

    I’m a bit wary of the word “should” regarding anything in life, but the sentiment is appreciated. Reminds me a bit of Eat the Damn Cake, a lovely blog with a photo gallery of women enjoying cake – a nice reminder that there is no shame in enjoying food – that eating is beautiful, natural, and a part of rich, full life.
    Joy recently posted..Sunday Snippets

    Reply

  17. Donna
    2 years ago

    Sometimes I think I don’t “deserve” pleasure because of the “displeasure” I have brought onto my family with my eating disorder. I used to love dark chocolate, but abusing chocolate-flavored laxatives years ago put me “off” the taste of it to this day. I hope I one day find the self-love necessary to appreciate truly good dark chocolate and desserts in general.

    Reply

  18. Elizabeth
    2 years ago

    I enjoy eating dessert for about 1-2 months out of the year. I enjoy winning speed skating races much more then I enjoy eating dessert! So those few months after nationals make desserts that much more sweet. :) (I’m especially addicted to cookies) Oh! And I do eat dark chocolate during the on-season! Especially dark chocolate with almonds. Yum!

    Reply

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Sunday Snippets « Recovery from Disordered Eating on December 18, 2011 at 12:48 am

    [...] Why You Should Really Eat Dessert. Yes, thank you. Don’t mind if I do. [...]

  2. [...] I got this quote from “Nourishing the Soul“ [...]

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