Throughout my late teens and into my 20’s, I had a strict rule: desserts or sweets could only be eaten twice a week. At the time I thought I was doing something good for my body (and my weight), but as it turned out, the opposite was true.

The no-dessert mentality comes from the belief that there are “good” foods and “bad” foods. These labels place a judgement on food, and therefore on ourselves when we eat them. If we eat cake, we’ve been “bad”, but if we have a salad for lunch we were “good”. This mentality leads to cycles of guilt, restriction, and the inevitable binge when you finally “give in” and eat those off-limits foods. It’s time to ditch this cycle entirely, starting first with dessert. Here are four reasons why you should give yourself permission to eat dessert.

Why You Should Eat Dessert

You’ll be satisfied with less

When I stopped limiting the number of times I could eat dessert I suddenly found that I was satisfied with less. No longer did I need to eat brownie after brownie, feeling like it was the only chance I’d get to eat sweets that week. Once I allowed myself to have dessert whenever I felt like it, I no longer felt the need to keep eating and eating; I knew I could have more the next day. I was able to get back in touch with my body’s feelings of hunger, fullness and satisfaction and realized that more often than not, I’m satisfied with less dessert. Gone are the days where I felt like I needed sweets every night after dinner. Now that I’m tapped into what my body really wants, and know that I can eat dessert whenever I feel like it, I’ve actually found that I don’t need chocolate as much as I thought!

You’ll stop obsessing about sweets

Restricting a food or labeling it as off-limits, in order to try to eat less, almost always has the opposite effect. Tell yourself you won’t have dessert for a week and then the only thing you can think about is, well, dessert! If you’re always trying to hold out and not eat dessert, you’ll end up thinking about dessert nonstop. That’s a whole lot of mental energy to spend thinking about food. Free up your mind and use that energy elsewhere!

You’ll cut down on the dessert binging

Many of my clients tell me that they’re so “good” at avoiding dessert during the week, but on the weekends, or late at night, they end up overdoing it and binging on candy, sweets and snacks. Restriction breeds binging – it’s not sustainable to think that you can never have dessert. Building any kind of eating plan around something that is impossible to do long-term is always going to set you up for failure. Instead, by allowing yourself to have dessert whenever you like, you allow for a more flexible way of eating that is better for both your health and your sanity.

You’ll ditch the guilt and self-loathing

Restricting desserts breeds guilt. When you do eat sweets or treats, you likely end up feeling bad about it, which can lead to overeating or overdoing it. This isn’t just mental – guilt can cause your body to release stress hormones, which cause a rise appetite, so you actually feel hungrier. When I used to limit myself to sweets once a week, I always go totally overboard and eat all kinds of sweets because I felt like I “deserved” it. Afterwards I’d be left feeling guilt and out of control. This guilt leads to further stress and food restriction (trying to make up for having a “bad” day) or excessive exercise, which just starts the cycle of guilt, restricting, and overeating all over again. Eating food does not and should not be associated with guilt or shame. When you allow yourself to eat dessert whenever you want, you can enjoy every bite mindfully and without the self-loathing.

Bottom line: if you want the ice cream, eat the ice cream (the real stuff!) no guilt required.

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