My Quest to Give Up Dessert: Part 1

I was going to write this post at a later stage in this quest, but I’m starting to realize the quest might look quite different at that point. So I’m going to write something now, and perhaps I’ll write more later.

I love dessert. And I don’t just mean dessert after dinner–I eat dessert after lunch too, and I usually have a few pieces of candy in the mid-afternoon. I’m not a glutton, but it’s a fairly consistent intake of dessert.

I’m also aware of the caloric impact of desserts. For most of my life I’ve had an excellent metabolism–in fact, I often strove to weigh a little more, to beef up.

That stopped a few years ago when I started to gain a little weight. Whereas I spent my 20s right around 150 lbs, in my 30s I climbed up to 160, and sometimes 165. A few of my shirts strained a bit when I sat down, but overall I was still fine with how I looked. I think that’s important, because who cares what society says you should weight or how you should look? What matters is what you think about yourself.

However, a few weeks ago I had lunch with an old friend who was passing through St. Louis with her husband. After lunch we took this photo, which was posted to Facebook a few minutes later:


I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a photo of me and thought, “That doesn’t look like me.” I didn’t like that. My face just…doesn’t look like my face. I think this stood out in particular on this photo because (a) Cathy looks exactly like she did in high school and (b) all of my high school friends saw this photo. Okay, maybe I do care what people think. I didn’t like what they were seeing.

This really shook me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like that. So I took a good, hard look at my lifestyle. I decided to start doing mini workouts every day at home to break up the long stretches when I’m sitting down. I have plans to by a standing desk at IKEA when the St. Louis store is up and running in the fall.

I decided to eat less food in general. I’m not interested in a drastic change in diet–I already eat a pretty balanced mix of foods. But I want to put less on my plate.

And, per the title of this post, I decided to give up desserts. I probably consume 1000 calories just of desserts every day. Cutting that could make a big difference.

Also, I recently read an article about how desserts and simple sugars have the same addictive qualities as any other addictive substance (coffee, nicotine, etc). Our bodies get hooked on them, and then they trick us into thinking we “need” them. I don’t like the idea that I might be unknowingly addicted to anything.

However, I don’t like to waste food. So first I had to eat all of the desserts in my condo. That’s where I am right now. And it’s somewhat comical, because as I get closer to running out of desserts, the better I become at finding (or creating) desserts. For example, the pile of Jolly Rangers I’ve had no interest in the last few months has suddenly become as precious as gold. Chocolate syrup is at a premium. And I even made cookies from scratch simply because I had a few chocolate chips on hand.

The day is drawing near when I truly will run out of desserts. I’m rather curious to see how my body responds. What does dessert relapse feel like? I’ll find out.


Have you ever had an experience like this where you looked at yourself and didn’t recognize the person you saw? How did you react?

18 thoughts on “My Quest to Give Up Dessert: Part 1”

  1. Jamey, I had this in reverse every time I looked in the mirror for about five years after losing 185 lbs in 8 months. WHO IS THAT SKINNY CHICK?? Even now, 13.5 years after that weight loss, I commonly bring things to the fitting rooms that are several sizes too big. It has ceased being a delight and is honestly just a pain in the ass now. I shop by numbers… size 8, even though they look like baby clothes to me, usually fit. This perception problem, either way (fat/thin, thin/fat) is called body dysmorphia. I doubt you have it… you just have the scary beginnings of middle-age softness, and it’s good to grab it up and stop it if it bothers you (I still think you’re very attractive, but I absolutely understand what you mean).

    I am a chocoholic and a baconaholic. I’m also the proud possessor of an excellent set of stout Polish/Irish genes. My grandmother was 4’11”, never weighed less than 260 lbs as an adult that I know of, gave birth to 9 children, and lived to age 96, mentally bright until the last hours she was awake. She ate pork EVERY DAY even once her dentures had failed her enough that she had to shred it finely. She also ate potatoes every day, and always finished her evening with a shot of vodka (just one) while she knitted. She held the belief that dessert was for Sunday evening only, and that chocolate, in small quantities, was an everyday food. I think she was pretty wise for her body type and since I take strongly after her, I’ve adopted her strategy minus the vodka (my mother was an alcoholic and it was very destructive).

    I know for me, full-on denial of any food group finds me awake at 1 am, blindly eating a third plate of spaghetti in a near-panic. This is stupid. LOL The Sunday dessert plan seems like an excellent rule to me; it’s not verboten, you can look forward to it, it won’t make you weigh 300 lbs any time soon (portion size: what you would eat sitting with your skinny high school friend), and it calms the animal panic of never never never getting a treat. If someone invites you to have dessert on another night, you can say, “Oh, thank you, but I only have dessert on Sunday night so that it’s special.” And of course, it doesn’t HAVE to be Sunday; for me, it is, because as kids, we had ice cream once a week watching Disney’s Magic Kingdom on TV, which was also a treat. Old traditions don’t have to die. 🙂

    Set yourself up so that any other time you reach for dessert, you can have an apple, a tangerine, a banana, a handful of grapes… and a small slice of cheese. The sweetness and protein will knock the urge down and we should all eat more fresh fruit anyway.

    Hope something here helps. Let me know how you get on with IKEA’s standing desk. Do you plan to get a treadmill too and do the 1 mph walk-while-working thing? I am sooo tempted!

    • Julia: Thanks so much for sharing. I like a lot of what you said here, and I appreciate the stories about your experience and your grandmother, who sounds amazing.

      The ideas I really like are (a) a “cheat” day (I’ve heard of others doing this too) and the substitution of natural sweets like fruit as a new form of dessert. I do love fruit, but I’ve never used it as a dessert. That’s what chocolate is for. 🙂

  2. There’s a bunch of people at my work who use treadmill desks – I’m not there yet, but I have a stand-up desk, and I lost a bunch of weight when I first started using it. Can I suggest not waiting to go to ikea, but just get a few sturdy boxes and put a plank of wood over them to sit your computer on?
    You’ll get a good idea as to whether or not you can manage the stand-up desk, and it will save you a chunk of cash. Also it lets you just start, rather than putting it off 🙂
    If/when you do get the stand-up desk, definitely invest in a good mat to stand on. You want something like checkout and factory workers use, because you’ll be standing on it all day. You’ll get sore feet at first. Like REALLY sore, but your feet get used to it.

    If you’re interested in an easy diet that makes a difference, try this one:

    No snacks/sweets/seconds, except on days that start with an ‘s’.
    It’s real easy to follow, and you aren’t giving up dessert forever 🙂

    Good luck!

    • RodeoClown: I like your suggestion about the standing desk! The problem is that I don’t want to always stand at my desk–I want to both stand and sit down. But I agree that’s a good way of testing the desk before going all-in on it.

      That diet sounds similar to what Julia suggested above–I like the idea, except perhaps limiting desserts to one day might be better (or two days separated by a few days. The only problem there is that if I have dessert in the house, I’m going to eat it. 🙂

  3. Jamey, for what it’s worth, I think you look fine. But that’s not really the issue since it’s mostly your own self-perception at play here and I know exactly how you feel. I usually do not gain weight during winter times (my family does not celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas is mostly centered around eggnog), but this last Christmas break…I saw some changes come January that I just didn’t like. It didn’t matter that I usually don’t care about people’s opinion; when my newly-developed love handles were flagging people down and unintentionally getting attention on my behalf whenever I walked, I knew I had to make a change. When I looked in the mirror, I felt like I had eaten my old self, although looking back now the weight gain was not that drastic.

    Thankfully, a friend of mine sent me a few “Insanity” videos after I told her about the weight gain. And I’m now leaner than I was before Christmas break, so surprisingly the work outs worked. I guess being a vegetarian for a year and half and not drinking soda for nearly the same period of time has also helped. Basically, I just needed to work out and not do a drastic change in diet.

    So, I think you have the right idea. Eating less and working out more. Although, I’d say not to completely give up desserts! It’s good to trick your metabolism and have a cheat day.

    • Teddy: It sounds like you had a similar experience, and I appreciate you sharing it. I don’t think I’m as committed as you to a whole new workout regime, but I think the mini workouts spread throughout the day are making a difference (plus, they wake me up if I’m feeling a little groggy).

      The others suggested a cheat day, so I’ll have to make that happens. Perhaps on game night, as a friend often brings desserts to it.

  4. I’ve had a couple of similar experiences where a picture has been a huge eye opener showing changes I didn’t realize were happening (one good, one bad).

    The good experience was after my move to the Virgin Islands a few years ago, where without actively trying to change anything about my diet or exercise habits I managed to tone up and lose weight.

    The bad experience was last month during my trip to Las Vegas, when I realized that my lack of activity the last few months paired with excessive baking during the brutally cold St. Louis winter had caused some unexpected weight gain that I was not happy about. I wouldn’t say it ruined my trip, but the fact that my summer clothes (some of which were bordering on being too big at the end of last summer) didn’t fit properly did put a damper on my mood during the trip and served as a wake up call that I needed to make some changes. Since returning home from that trip I’ve spent more time planning out meals that are healthier and doing things to stay active, such as longer walks with my dog and bike rides when the sun is out, and making myself do indoor workouts (one short 10 minute one when I first wake up in the morning and then a little longer one after work/before bedtime each night) instead of being sedentary. Even though it has only been a couple of weeks since I’ve started making these active changes in my eating and exercise habits, I can already see a small difference in how some of those ill-fitting summer clothes fit now, and my energy levels also seem to have increased.

    Cutting out sweets is hard, and something that I won’t even try to fool myself into thinking I can do completely, however, the use of fruit in place of chocolate, ice cream, or a baked good has been working to curb my sugar cravings so far. Instead of baking a couple of different types of sweets each week, my new plan is to limit it to one special treat that can be shared at the weekly game night (and then bring any leftovers to work to remove the temptation from my place).

    • Katy: Thanks for sharing your experiences. I know how you feel when you try on something you thought fits, only to find it doesn’t! I applaud you for taking steps to make those changes.

  5. Hey Jamey, after I realised I was drinking about 5-6 cans of soda a day minimum I realised I needed to cut back. I decided to quit all soda cold turkey for a whole year. Trust me, the first month is the hardest but once you’ve got past that it’s actually a lot easier than you think it’ll be. Good luck!

  6. I’ve also recently realised that I’m a bit chubbier than I’d like. I used to cycle 20 miles to work and do occasional pole dancing but since the start of the year, I cycle less than half the weekly amount I used to and I’ve been eating a fair bit over the past couple of weeks whilst finishing all the art for my game.

    I am planning to start some quick daily exercise and have booked some hot yoga. in May, I’m going to get back into latin dancing (6 hours a week on 2 nights, which also involves 40 miles of cycling).

    I’m not happy about my current shape and fatness, but I see it as something I’m willing to tolerate for a short while, as I really need to get these files sorted.

    All the best for your own diet!

    • Bez: You lead a very active lifestyle compared to me! That’s very impressive. Good luck getting those files sorted. 🙂

  7. Back in college, I gained a fair amount of weight the first year or two. It probably wasn’t the cause of too much dessert, per say—perhaps more to do with the quality of the cafeteria food combined with less balanced choices than at home. But there is also a lot of added sugar in pre-prepared foods, too, which could have played a part. Once I had that “moment of realization”, I began making efforts toward a healthier lifestyle, including being more active. Those first proactive decisions were really important, not to mention the value of the awareness gained.

    Just this past week, actually, I saw myself and thought, “Wow, I look pretty slouched. I need to pay more attention to my posture”… move around more, sit less, and sit up straight or stand when I’m working (reading in bed probably doesn’t help either). I’ve wanted a standing desk that I could also sit at—if you get one that works well for you, please post about it!

    I don’t want to deter you from your goal, Jamey, but, when you reintroduce sweets, I’d be happy to share some of my favorite healthy desserts if you’d like some suggestions. I’ll avoid details for now. 😉

    On a related note, the hardest part for me in choices like this can be the pressure to conform. Sometimes exceptions are appropriate, but the decision to abstain from something can be valuable in so many ways. If you’re going to make an exception—at a social event, for example—, something I’ve learned is to decide that ahead of time (and not in the moment). Also, if you do choose to go without, communicate your decision in a simple explanation, but probably only if it’s necessary / appropriate to the situation (e.g. “No thanks, I’m taking a break. But those look great!”). By doing those two things, you can ensure you’re not sabotaging yourself, avoid guilt (and regression), honor others, and still grow in self-control. Stick it out long enough and you may discover that you don’t miss certain things nearly as much as you might have expected. 🙂

    What do you think will be the hardest part overall? What dessert do you think will be the most challenging to give up?

    Good luck on your quest, Jamey—you can do it! (P.S. I’d be interested in the article you mentioned!)

    • Jason: Thanks so much for sharing your insights! I admire your ability to look at yourself and see little ways (healthy ways) to improve. I strive to do that too.

      That’s a really interesting point about making the decision to break the diet in advance (if at all). In general, I think I’m going to try to abstain from buying dessert and junk food, but if it’s offered to me at a gathering, I think that’s a good situation to partake (for me, at least).

      • Sounds like a great approach! (Especially if you’re not being offered those types of things otherwise, like may be the case in a 9 to 5 work environment.)

        Thanks for sharing! Hearing about your goals is an encouragement to keep working toward my own.

  8. I feel the same way! Besides re-committing to biking to work, I also really love an app called 7 Minute Workout. It’s a series of 30 second exercises with 10 seconds of rest in between and the whole thing takes 7 minutes and no equipment. It was developed be researchers to determine the least amount of exercise to work your whole body. I love it because there’s no excuse – “you’re really too busy to spend 7 minutes exercising?!” It’s easy (push ups, sit ups, lunges, etc but remember only for 30 seconds) and you can fit in whenever. I also LOVE dessert but my metabolism has finally slowed down so it’s time to cut back a little. Best of luck!

    • Emma: That’s awesome! I use the 4-minute version of that app, and I always feel great afterwards. I think those little active breaks between long periods of sitting down can make a big difference (at least, I’m hoping they do for me!). Commuting to work by bike sounds like a great idea too.


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