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When It Comes to Sweets, Never Say Never

Even Candy Can Be Healthy -- in Moderation
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Exclusive Feature

For some people, the scariest part of starting off on a new, healthier way of eating is the idea of giving up their favorite sweet treats -- forever!

If you're a cookie-and-candy-craver, don't despair. Sweets can be part of a healthy, lifelong eating pattern. But for the least harm and -- don't forget this -- the fullest enjoyment, they should be eaten in moderation. That means in small amounts, or only a couple of times a week. Even a woman who has made a career out of eating candy admits she has cut back her consumption to one day a week. Hilary Liftin, blessedly svelte and cavity free, wrote the critically acclaimed, tongue-in-cheek memoir Candy & Me: A Love Story.

"Candy's meaning," she says, "has more subtlety than its taste. It affords a fleeting spike of pleasure, sometimes guilty or elusive or bittersweet, like an impossible love affair."

Such romanticization aside, the smorgasbord of candy -- not to mention cheeseburgers, cookies, cakes, pies, fries, chips, barbecue, and ice cream -- that Americans consume has helped lead to skyrocketing obesity rates and a near-epidemic of diabetes.

So why would anyone in his or her right mind (sorry, Hilary) ever think it's OK to eat candy, cake, or pie?

"Some choices are better than others," says Larrian Gillespie, MD, author of The Menopause Diet, The Gladiator Diet, and The Goddess Diet. "You have to know the consequences before you make the choice."

When asked about the half-pound of candy Liftin reportedly eats in a sitting (only on Fridays, mind you), Gillespie said such a binge would definitely affect insulin levels, stressing the body's hormone system and leading to a slumpy, tired "crash." In other words, it might taste good going in, but a price will be paid.

The price: You'll get hungry again sooner.

Too Much Denial Can Lead to Bingeing

But if eating too many treats can touch off more hunger, constant self-denial can lead to dietary defiance and end up derailing all your good intentions, Gillespie says.

"It takes a week to lose two pounds," she says, "yet you can eat [those two pounds] on in a day. If you keep telling yourself not to eat something, you will just get in a cycle of hopelessness and eat things you don't need."

Gillespie herself caves in to the occasional chocolate craving but tries to keep her indulgences on the lighter side. "Last night, I microwaved some chocolate sauce and dipped strawberries," she says. "I picked a healthy fruit."

How To Stay On Track

Liftin, hardly the Moderation Kid, says the once-a-week approach works best for her.

"One bite is torture for me," she says. "I need to eat as much as I want if I am going to eat it." But "I don't start eating candy until after lunch. You have to have some standards."

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