I gave up sweets for Lent and this is what I learned

My initial nutrition assessment includes a question about whether the patient has a sweet or salty preference. Generally if someone is going to indulge, they choose one or the other – ice cream sundaes or bacon cheeseburgers. I’ve always been a member of the former group: I’d eat salad for breakfast lunch and dinner but when it comes to dessert, bring on the brownie sundaes!

Sometimes, sweets are great. A birthday cake or a chocolate bunny at

NOT TODAY YA WON'T!  BUT: this is from the Peach Sundae Road Race in my hometown of Wilbraham, MA. A perfect example of how sweets can enrich your life - a five mile race to support my community with peach sundaes after? Yeah, I'm gonna participate.

NOT TODAY YA WON’T! (Circa August 2011)
BUT: this is from the Peach Sundae Road Race in my hometown of Wilbraham, MA. A perfect example of how sweets can enrich your life – a five mile race to support my community with peach sundaes after? Yeah, I’m gonna participate.

Easter is a treat to be savored, but when it comes down to it, I really don’t need chocolate every day. Advertising and the media really like to play up the “Had a bad day? Treat yourself to some sweets, ladies” thing and honestly, it’s a little sexist and a little offensive.  Hell yeah I love chocolate but I am also an adult with coping mechanisms that are totally unrelated to sugar.  (Hello, exercise!) Revelation #1: a lot of times we indulge because we’ve been conditioned to think that we should. 

So when two of my very best friends decided to give up sweets for lent, I decided I would too. Well, I decided I’d do it for at least two weeks then have some if I felt it was necessary. I thought it would be hard. I was being a wimp. I put all the fun baking supplies (chocolate chips, both milk and semi sweet) in a cabinet that is too high for me to reach without climbing on the counter and being generally awkward. I figured if I was desperate enough to go through that ordeal, then I had some bigger issues than chocolate cravings, amiright?! Thus, we stumble upon revelation #2: if it’s a pain in the ass to eat sweets, you’re proooobably not gonna do it.

Two weeks came and went and it was surprisingly easy. This time coincided with us finally getting YMCA memberships, which means that post work there was a lot of swimming/lifting/group fit-ing to be done, and dinner was pushed later. With less time after work, I really didn’t even think about sweets after dinner, I just wanted to sleep. Revelation #3: boredom often results in that post-meal cookie itch.

On the third or fourth week, we had friends come visit from CT! It was amazing and wonderful and they came bearing gifts from some of our other friends, which included some magic cookie bars baked with love from the sweetest lady who ever did walk the earth (aka best bud Emily. Aside: why are all the Emilys of the world so saintly? I was almost named Emily. Almost….Make of that what you will.) At this point, I decided to adopt the “Sundays of lent are mini Easters and you can have whatever it is that you’ve given up” rule so that I could sample this treat. Totally worth it, totally not guilty, because of revelation #4: when your sweets have some meaning, they’re worth it. They also are probably more delicious than that gross processed snack cake that you had “because it was there”.

Now, it’s Good Friday and while I’m looking forward to a Reese’s PB egg as  much as the next person, I’m really not jones in’ for sweets! Final revelation, #5: Going cold turkey on sweets will actually reduce your desire for them. There is a lot of research that has come out lately that states that the most addictive foods are the more highly processed ones – those with high fat and sugar content. Aka what you’re probably eating when you indulge in sweet treats. Is anyone actually surprised by this?? Luckily, it is possible to get off once you’re hooked – just quit for a little.

So so let’s talk about how we can apply these revelations to your real life:

1. Figure out what cheers you up after a bad day. Search #dogsmiles on Instagram (not kidding). Get an adult coloring book (also not kidding). Get your butt outside and take the dog for a walk or take yourself on a run in the woods. Always helps me. Food is just going to  make you wish you hadn’t later.

2. Don’t keep sweets in the house, or store them out of sight: instead, keep a bowl of fruit on the counter.  You’ll automatically snack on that instead.

3. Keep yourself busy! Not with work work, but with something you choose to do. Start a project, plan a movie night, something that will keep your attention away from the candy dish. (Not that you have one, see #1)

4. Keep yourself busy: are you eating sweets because they’re there/they taste kinda good? Or are you eating sweets because it is enriching your life in some way? Food is love. Sometimes that food is the occasional sweet. In that case, savor it: appreciate the flavor and texture, make it an experience.

5. Just suck it up and quit for a little! It will not hurt you I promise. You’ll probably surprise yourself on the other side, I know I did!

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3 responses to “I gave up sweets for Lent and this is what I learned

  1. Pingback: How cohabitation affects eating habits | How to Eat, R.D.·

  2. Pingback: How to Eliminate Food Cravings | How to Eat, R.D.·

  3. Pingback: Short-term nutrition goals for Lent (even if you’re not Catholic!) | How to Eat, R.D.·

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