Could I have worst timing? After I started my 30 day commitment to not eat desserts, we booked a Western Caribbean Cruise to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday. Oh No! All those delicious pies, cakes, mousses…how could I resist? How could I miss Rob’s birthday cake?
My mind starting bargaining, making plans, coming up with various schemes of what I could eat, what I couldn’t, and what days I should let myself eat sweets. Our vacation was 12 days, but our cruise was 5 days and Rob’s birthday was only 1 day. Maybe I would only have one dessert per day.
Then, sanity set in. As a person with autoimmune disease, I know sugar wrecks havoc on the body. My sugar consumption had once again gotten out of control. Honestly, I was poisoning my body.
Previously, I’ve written about going sugar-free. But, all it takes is one more bite, then another and within a few days, I’m back to days skipping lunch in favor of eating cookies, cakes and ice cream.
Strangely, knowing that sugar is as addictive as cocaine makes me feel better. First, it makes me happy that I’m not addicted to cocaine! Second, I realize I’m not weak. Sugar is a powerful feel-good drug that sets me up for constant cravings.
The Challenge Begins
Setting the goal to go 30 days without eating any sugary junk food or desserts is a good starting point. This first step would result in a major reduction in my sugar intake. Eliminating all sugar from one’s diet is incredibly challenging as almost every processed food contains some form of sugar. Vacation is not the time to set such strict limitations.
The Queen of Exceptions and Excuses
As I was tossing around the idea of whether to cancel or modify my challenge, I realized that there would always be another birthday, special celebration or holiday. I saw my future self spouting an endless array of excuses to indulge.
Only this once I’ll have ice cream cake. I’ll only have one cookie. Ok, I’ll only eat as much as I want now and then not eat junk food for the rest of the day. Then, when I no longer want to curtail my junk food binges, I’ll pull out the spiritual excuses. You aren’t a body. You’re body doesn’t even exist. Only if you believe sugar will harm you, then it will.
Would I ruin Rob’s birthday if I didn’t eat cake? Uh, no. It was decided. I would stick to this no dessert challenge.
The first few days only had tough moments. I didn’t have withdrawal symptoms. But, I had to stay mindful not to grab whatever I wanted to eat. I used willpower to choose something healthier to eat.
This chocolate hemp smoothie was my savior, even my daughter thought it was a hit. Granted it contains a banana and dates, but I wasn’t eliminating fruits. It kept me from grabbing cookies.
Cruise Time. All You Can Eat Time.
When I saw the glass display case of fancy desserts available all day and night, my resolve shriveled up. I swear the peanut butter and chocolate dessert was whispering to me to devour it. Temporarily, I forgot that my lifelong obsession with peanut butter had gifted me with a mild peanut allergy that gave flu-like symptoms when I ate it. I walked away empty-handed.
I had made it through the first day and night, but by the second night, I wanted to cave in. I told my husband that I really, really wanted to order something.
He turned to me and gently said, “Don’t do it.” It wasn’t a command. I heard strength and love in his voice. He knew I would regret it. I decided not to order the dessert. For the rest of the cruise, I didn’t even crave desserts. That one decision carried me.
If he had given a hint of “go ahead”, it would have opened the gates to sugar for me and I would’ve sugar-binged the rest of the trip.
I did have slip-ups. The owner of On The Way Cafe, a local great food spot, touted the scrumptious, coconut-chocolate chip scones and let me know there was only a couple left. Forgetting that I wasn’t eating baked goods for the month, I ordered one.
I remembered before the plate arrived, but I felt funny about canceling the order. Plus, scones aren’t very sugary. (Yes, I know this is an excuse.) So, I encouraged my 2 kids to eat as much of it as they wanted and I finished off the last few bites. Yes, it was quite delicious.
When I came home from my vacation there were freshly baked brownies (Thanks, Mom!) on my kitchen island. I wasn’t even tempted to eat them.
How to make it through a month of no desserts/junk food
1. Stock up on healthy substitutes. My favorites are Skinny Pop popcorn, fruit, crackers with cheese, tortilla chips with hummus or salsa, chocolate hemp smoothie, and cashews.
2. Notice what triggers your craving. Is it a particular time of day? Is it after dinner or when you’ve gone too long without eating? Some nights after dinner, I’d crave something sweet. If I had Erewhon (unsweetened gluten-free cereal) with unsweetened almond milk, my cravings would subside.
3. Out of sight, out of mind. If you live alone, don’t allow any junk food in your home. If you live with others, keep all the sweets in a separate cabinet that you don’t open.
4. Stress = sugar craving. I spent a lot of time walking, meditating and journaling to reduce stress. Find your personal stress relievers.
5. Fruit saves the day. Eat a small piece of fruit after meals if you are craving something sweet. Protein and fat at each meal fills you up and takes longer to digest. Carb heavy meals will leave you craving sugar.
6. Avoid any sugary drinks. Water with lemon hit the sweet spot for me.
7. Take out/Add in. When you take something out of your life, there is a void. Add an enjoyable activity into your life. I added in walking by the beach and reading for pleasure.
8. Have a support partner. Find a friend, family member or co-worker to keep you on track for the month. My husband’s milestone birthday made him reflect on his own health, which made him the perfect partner.
9. Keep it Simple. This is the MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember. Now is not the time to overload yourself with buying new ingredients, supplements, preparing new recipes or following a meal plan. Keep it very simple. Eliminate junk food and add in healthy snacks and an enjoyable activity.
Less Sugar = Feeling Better
Was it worth it? I’d say so. These are changes I experienced:
- Less napping.
- More energy.
- No weight gain on the cruise. I took the stairs 99% of the time. I ate much more than I normally do at home.
- Exercising more.
- Flat stomach.
- Less headaches.
- Getting much more done.
I feel so much better that I plan on making this a permanent lifestyle change. Now, I’m thinking about building on this habit with my next nutritional baby step.