It is August and I am more than half way through my 2012 No Desserts experiment. Some days I think this experiment is working and my dessert pendulum has started to swing to a more reasonable center, and other days not so much. But this month, I had a monumental battle with one of my cookie monsters and have come away with the reward of an important lesson learned and a new tool for conquering cravings.
What is the no dessert experiment?
If you haven’t had an opportunity yet to read original article about the No Dessert Experiment, I’ll give you the cliff notes:
As much as I honor my body and know with my heart and my rational mind that I thrive when I fuel my body well; there is another little voice that tries to weigh in on the decision-making process when it comes to desserts, especially chocolate chip cookies. Last December, I got fed up with the mental chatter between my cookie monsters and my desire to thrive.
Am I against eating cookies? No, I am not against cookies. I support eating dessert in moderation, especially desserts that are made from whole foods ingredients that are absolutely delicious. But for me, this experiment is about swinging the pendulum so I can reset my relationship with sweet treats.
During the 2012 “no dessert” experiment, I can have 2 desserts per month. (The parameters of what counts as a dessert for this experiment are defined in the first article.) Why not zero desserts? For 2 reasons:
1) Two desserts a month is a more obtainable goal than zero. When I set out to do the experiment, it felt important to choose a goal that I could make a firm commitment to complete. Having no desserts for an entire year seemed like it would be no fun at all and it was questionable as to whether I would voluntarily complete a full year with no desserts— so I committed to two per month. So far, 8 months into the experiment, I’d say it feels like I made the right choice by committing to the two per month.
2) Eating dessert in a conscious manner allows me to dive in and explore my connection with desserts. Being limited to two desserts forces me to be conscious about my dessert choices. And it has given me the opportunity to observe the patterns of when I crave desserts.
My New Year’s Eve Dessert Overdose
As I was getting ready to kick off the No Dessert experiment, I made the very poor decision to eat any and every dessert I desired on New Year’s Eve. We piled up the dining room table with all kinds of desserts. Antonios was not onboard with this plan, but the kids and I thought it was a terrific idea, until …..
A short time after having consumed cookies, a brownie, candy, and more, I started to feel “off”. And then the feeling grew into something like a scary movie (don’t worry, the ending turns out fine).
I started to sweat,
and then I started to feel nauseous.
Then minute after minute the strange effects of the over-indulgence started kicking in.
I started feeling joint pain.
And then came the chills
Soon I was feeling so uncomfortable, I literally wanted to be out of my skin; I was rational enough to recognize how irrational that thought was, but it was wild to even have that thought in the first place. Antonios and the kids wanted to comfort me, but I was so uncomfortable that I didn’t even want to be touched, not even a loving get well hug. In the end, I drank as much water as I could get into my body to try to flush my system and eventually, the ickyness subsided.
It was such an unpleasant experience.
Was it the sugar? Perhaps, it was also the sugar. But what I have since learned from experimenting with my 2012 dessert choices is that the reaction was most likely caused because some of the desserts had ingredients I could not pronounce. Regardless of the cause, it was so unpleasant I thought for sure I would be able to hold onto the bad memory as motivation for my 2012 experiment.
That New Year’s Eve dessert overdose, albeit unpleasant, was not enough to stop my dessert cravings. But what it did highlight for me was the importance of choosing my desserts more wisely. What I have since observed is that I react much better to desserts made with whole foods ingredients.
Armed with the visceral and recent memory of getting sick from eating too many desserts, I embarked on my no desserts experiment.
Key learning #1: The quality of the ingredients in the dessert really matter.
Why are desserts so addictive?
How is it possible that after that Year’s Eve experience that I still look forward to my 2 desserts a month? One answer, as I am learning, is that sugar is a highly addictive substance. There are an increasing number of studies and information being put out that explain the impacts of sugar on the body. But for today’s post, I am going to dive a further into the emotional reasons by sharing a personal story.
I had the great opportunity to face one of my cookie monsters in a head-to-head battle this month…
When I was growing up, my parents would occasionally take my siblings and I out to get these specific cookies from a specific bakery. This month, since it was my birthday, my father surprised me and got me one of those cookies.
You can see from the picture, it’s not even the most amazing cookie, but …..
When I saw the cookie my heart flooded with the positive memories of walking next to my Dad and being just tall enough to reach up to hold his hand. The cookie was full of memories of feeling loved because going to that bakery was a special ritual and of feeling safe in my Dad’s big, strong shadow as we walked on the sidewalk from the car to the bakery. So to me, the cookie represented so much more than the delicious butter, sugar, and chocolate.
And as I looked at the cookie I had a decision to make… is this what I want for one of my two desserts this month? And the answer was no. But I couldn’t toss it. It was a present. AND it was a memory tied with such strong emotion that I irrationally felt like to toss the cookie was to toss the memory.
So I battled with myself. Lots of mental chatter! Eat the cookie, not eat the cookie. And the frustration with myself that after 8 months of the no dessert experiment, desserts still have a power over me to cause mental chatter.
And in the end, I did not eat the cookie.
…But I did not toss it either.
And the next day, I lost the battle and ate the cookie.
I ate it standing at the counter… I didn’t even take the time to sit down and enjoy it.
As I ate the first bite, I quieted the mental chatter. I followed my own advice … once you decide to eat a treat, enjoy it. Guilt is not healthy for the digestive tract. So instead I breathed and began to enjoy the cookie. And I also explored my connection with the cookie and what I had learned from all the mental chatter.
With each bite, I decoupled the rich memories from the cookie. I was able to save to the memory and say goodbye to the cookie monster for that particular type of cookie. Unfortunately, now I realize I have more than one cookie monster that I am battling with. It was an interesting learning that will help me become more conscious of the patterns and memories that draw me to desserts. And I hope that by sharing this story, of my battle with the cookie monster, you get a window into your own unconscious connections between food and the memories that food represent.
My wish for everyone, including myself, is that we can decouple the memory and the food so we can make our food choices based on what fuels us optimally so we can thrive.
In the end, victory was mine.
I may have eaten the cookie, but I slaughtered that cookie monster. PLUS, I have now surfaced some powerful thoughts from my unconscious about the ways I have coupled loving memories with desserts. This information will surely benefit me in this quest to reset the pendulum on my dessert eating.
Key learning #2: Our minds are powerful enough to de-couple the emotions from the food if we bring the connection into our conscious thoughts.
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