The Sweetness of Life
Does your wish for sweetness get in the way of losing weight and feeling good mentally and physically over the long-term? Some of us do not focus on what we put in our mouths and how we feel about it. Many people enter hypnotherapy to lose weight or to be healthier, both physically and mentally. The most common thing people say to me about losing weight is that they would miss the sweetness in the foods they usually enjoy. They are sometimes willing to sacrifice their mental or physical wellness for the sweetness they crave in simple carbohydrates. I have no judgment about liking sweetness; I myself enjoy it in small doses. However, when it’s out of balance with the rest of life, it can create problems. Hypnosis can help people with cravings for things that do not serve our well-being.
Of course, we cannot separate our physical and mental wellness anymore. We know way too much about the mind-body connection to buy that old Cartesian split between mind and body. Just as our bodies and minds are connected, so, too are we connected to the environment. What we put in us (nutrition) and surround ourselves with has an impact on us and we have an impact on our surroundings. Therefore, there is a tension between the immediate desire for sweetness and the long-term goals for feeling good in a healthy way.
NUTRITION AND MENTAL WELLNESS
It seems that not many physicians see the link between nutrition and mental health. However, it is vital to be more aware of this connection. Following are some highlights of what I have learned, along with some ideas of how to enjoy what Joshua Rosenthal calls “primary foods” in his book, Integrative Nutrition. He defines primary foods as “lifestyle factors… that create optimal health,” such as physical activities, career, relationships, and spirituality (p. 16). Many of us crave a little reward when we’ve done something good, and for some, that reward takes the form of a food treat. Often, it’s either salty and fatty or sweet and fatty. But what other treats can we give ourselves? How can we reward ourselves without linking it to food and drink? How can we learn to appreciate the sweetness in all of life, not just food?
You might want to ask yourself, “What do I do to treat myself?” If you automatically reach for food as a treat, hypnosis can help you find a different reward.
IDEAS FOR REWARDS:
Hugs, kisses and other expressions of love
Massage (self or giving or receiving to someone else)
Long bath or shower
Sweet smells (like aromatherapy oils, e.g., tangerine, etc.)
Water or herbal tea
Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong
Meditation / prayer
Calling a friend
Reading a good book
Time with a loved one
Doing a hobby
Looking at artwork or beautiful photography
Listening to music
Watching a good movie or video
Doing something creative (drawing, cooking, painting, writing)
Sharing a joke or funny story with someone
Going somewhere beautiful in nature; drinking in the view.
According to William Matteson, Ph.D. in his course “From Mouth to Madness,” what we use for sweeteners in our food can have a profound effect on our health. It’s dizzying to keep up on whether table sugar, or sucrose, is considered “good” or “bad” for us, but it does predispose us to have a more acid pH in our bodies, which can lead to a host of negative health problems.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, sugar can damage the liver, trick the body into gaining weight, lead to metabolic syndrome (a risk factor that can lead to diabetes and heart disease), increase uric acid levels which can lead to kidney and heart disease, and cause inflammation in the body. Furthermore, consumption of added sugar can lead to over-eating, memory formation impairment, depression, difficulties with learning, and type-2 diabetes. Some research points to fructose (fruit sugar) as a risk factor for various forms of cancer. It also indicates that fructose can worsen the health of for people who already have pancreatic tumors.
So added sugar does not seem tempting in terms of health effects. This leads some people to turn to artificial sweeteners to make their drinks and food tastier. But not so fast, says Dr. Matteson. He reports that aspartame (aka Nutra-Sweet) is a problem because it leads to “excitotoxicity.” This is a pathological process that damages and kills nerve cells. This process allows high levels of calcium to enter the cell. About 10% of aspartame is broken down into methanol in the small intestine, which the body absorbs and quickly converts into formaldehyde, then depletes glutathione. Depleted glutathione can lead to anxiety, feeling bad, confusion, and hallucinations in some people. That does not sound too appetizing either, does it?
TAMING THE CRAVINGS
Joshua Rosenthal suggests that sugar cravings are often more craving for energy, and finding more complex carbohydrates can keep the blood sugar regulated better throughout the day. When you do not eat simple sugars (e.g., table sugar and fruit sugar), your taste buds are more sensitive and you can taste the sugar in more complex carbohydrates.
Rosenthal suggests getting our sweet cravings satisfied by “squash, tubers, roots, grains, and fruit.” This also provides “nutrients, energy, and fiber – everything we need to maintain our health” (p. 146). A person’s deficits in taste and smell can relate to lower preference for sour, bitter or pungent foods, and higher intake of sugary foods. Such deficits can also be linked to lower intake of low-fat milk products and a nutrient intake profile that increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. In contrast, more sensitive taste buds can taste the sugar in potatoes, wheat, and even broccoli! You can find sweetness in anything if you look for it. Our conscious minds are limited to showing us where to look for it, but our unconscious minds are open to all types of sweetness throughout life. While the conscious mind resists giving up one kind of sweetness, the unconscious mind can be open to many other kinds of sweetness that show up unexpectedly, or that we might have overlooked.
How do we use this information yet still experience sweetness? With hypnosis, we make better decisions about what we eat to satisfy this and how often. Our conscious minds are well-aware of the negative consequences of indulging that taste. The evidence against simple sugars and some artificial sweeteners like Nutra-Sweet are pretty damning; maybe it’s time to find your sweetness in limited amounts of fruit and grains or from other naturally sweet (but unrefined) sources. In fact, our conscious minds often beat us up with that knowledge when we indulge our sweet tooth without heeding our diet.
This falls in line with what Greg Anderson refers to as the “Law of Nutritional Frugality” which means eating “a variety of unprocessed foods, in moderate amounts, during at least three meals, including breakfast, combined with a smart afternoon snack, while drinking eight glasses of pure water and taking a broad-spectrum vitamin-and-mineral supplement each day” (p. 46, The 22 Non-Negotiable Laws of Wellness). Another way to approach cravings like this is to first drink a glass of water, then eat a piece of fruit (maybe one that’s lower on the glycemic index like an apple), and then, if you still crave that piece of candy, give yourself that treat. Generally, we want to approach eating in an informed, moderate, mindful, and careful way. This means being judicious in how and when you indulge your sweet tooth. Do you trust yourself to adhere to this?
HONORING THE BODY
Love itself is part of life’s sweetness, and what better place to start loving people than with yourself? I can think of no better use of your energy than to start a kind, respectful relationship with yourself that allows you to enjoy life’s pleasures and feel truly deserving of it. One exercise that I found helpful from Integrative Nutrition is to write a letter to your body stating your intention to listen to its signals, messages, and to treat it lovingly. What are you willing to do to keep it in good working order and to show your loving respect for it? Think about the different areas of your life that influence how your body feels: work; play; relationships; environment; food; drink; habits (drugs? Cigarettes?); spiritual practice; and renew your commitment to “honor” your body as the “temple of your soul” (p. 165). As Deepak Chopra has said, “my body is the garden of my soul,” so tend yours carefully and it will bloom in your favor for years to come. Hypnosis can help reach this state of inner peace if your conscious mind fights with loving your body as it is.
If you have difficulty achieving sweetness in your life from things other than food, please call 661-233-6771 to schedule a hypnosis session so we can find your personal sweetness.