Can you give up dessert?

by in Diabetes, Holistic Nutrition Tips, Weight Loss April 4, 2008

Author: Dr. Nicole Sundene

pieceofcake.jpgRecently a friend had lost a bunch of weight and was looking really good, so being the nosy doctor that I am, I asked what technique he used. He said he simply decided to “never eat desserts again”.

Wow, he lost about 20 pounds just from giving up dessert! In America it is a common cultural concept to eat a huge meal and then five minutes later stuff ourselves even more BEYOND full with a large piece of dessert. Dessert is such a habit here that half the time we eat it without even wanting it. This is exactly how we all unwittingly gain the average five to ten extra pounds each year compounded by the depressing reality that each year our metabolism goes down a percentage point.

The typical dessert runs between 400-1000 calories, so say for instance we decide to give up an average dessert of 500 calories for seven days straight. That easily calculates in to the 3500 calorie deficit one must attain in order to lose one pound of body fat. That math was just too simple! Although both would be ideal, you could run for four hours a week or you could simply give up dessert each night.

Is eating dessert even worth it, I began to wonder. So I decided to test it out….

Being a recovering sugar addict I thought it would be tough to give up dessert. Although I have slipped up a few times here and there, I have realized that for me this is basically the easiest “Eating Plan” to ever follow. Since I already eat really healthy I don’t feel like I need to worry so much about my diet anymore, just dessert. Without dessert I have better energy, improved vitality and it is so much easier to keep my calorie count down.

We so often hear “A moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips” but that saying forgets to include the low energy, brain fog, mood swings, hypoglycemia and other not so fun things that typically accompany a high sugar diet, especially diabetes.

When you think about it though we might not have to entirely give up dessert but give up the general concept of dessert after every meal. Most of us honestly just need to give up dessert every other time or every three times. Good for you if you can give it up every time. Moderation is key here, I understand there does have to be SOME enjoyment in life, and I promise I am not here to ruin everything for you. Contrary to popular belief…

Could you give up dessert?

~Dr. Nicole

I hope you all have a Happy Whole Foods Friday and give yourself the gift of some really healthy and nourishing meals over the weekend!

  1. I rarely eat dessert, I love a nice slice of apple pie when I do have dessert.
    I have a cousin that married a beautiful girl with the middle name Dessert, we were all thinking her name was Desert, (that sandy place). But it turned out to be Dessert. NOW THAT’S MY IDEA OF THE PERFECT DESSERT.

  2. I love dessert! I could write a whole list of them that I love. Through a gift of metablolism I have never had to worry about gaining weight or limiting my desserts, but that does not mean I completely pig out. I found that if I overate I didn’t feel good, so I just follow your advice and eat in moderation and enjoy my desserts to the fullest!

    Have a great day Doctor Nicole, and thanks for your articles!
    Dr. Steven Moon

  3. Michael- that will certainly keep the calorie count down. LOL

  4. Dr. Moon- that is absolutely right! Desserts enjoyed in moderation should be enjoyed to the fullest…without all the guilt. Although I do admit I am jealous of your metabolism!

  5. You DON’T have to give up desert, just be really smart with it. Strawberries or banana’s in sugar (or plain if they’re good without) is what I serve my family, and they love it! Fruit people, fruit! It’s nature’s desert. =)

  6. You know, the whole country is gaining weight to epic proportions, and you have just hit on one of the reasons. You can’t walk into a restaurant these days without seeing a huge (and amazingly delicious looking) dessert presentation- who wouldn’t want it?

    Grandma and comfort are two things that desserts are associated with, both of which we as adults tend to long for.

    We are doomed from the get- go.

  7. I love this post! I was raised to eat dessert after lunch AND dinner, not to mention the fact that breakfast was basically dessert (french toast with syrup, sugar cereals, cinnamon toast…). It’s been my toughest hurdle. You certainly have me thinking, though – I mean, what if I could give up dessert five days a week and only eat it on weekends? Of course, like you said, there are those days when I swear my mind takes over my body and I crave dessert so strongly that I can’t NOT eat it. I become psychotic, almost, in my quest to get myself the appropriate sugary snack! Part of me wishes I could just be hypnotized to despise sugar, but that seems too easy.
    I hope you’ll write more about this, as it’s something I’d love to exercise some moderation (and will power) around!

    ~ Megan

  8. Doc do you have any tips on gaining will-power? I am becoming a compulsive eater, and sugar is my enemy. The eat something sweet at the end of a meal mentality is really hard to kick!

  9. Wow – that’s a lot of calories. I rarely used to eat dessert, but lately, I’ve been slipping into the bad habit of doing so. I won’t be anymore though. Thank you. By the way, I found you through NBOTW at Blogging Without A Blog.

  10. The one thing I’ve noticed since moving to the US is the HUGE portion sizes of all meals whether they are starters, entrees or desserts. I knew something strange was going on when it took 2 people to carry my plate to the table the first time I went to Cheesecake factory a few years ago on vacation.

    This typical conversation with a client may explian the obesity and problem somewhat:

    Do you eat much fast food?
    Quite a lot
    Do you know it’s probably not good for you?
    Yeh, I know that
    Do you know it’s no cheaper than preparing your own?
    Yeh, I know that
    Does it taste better than your own?
    No, not really
    Will you stop buying it then
    Probably not

    It’s no longer ignorance in my opinion, it’s apathy.

  11. Kitchen Table Medicine April 8, 2008 at 9:28 am Reply

    Girl Next Door- Yes it feels like doom at times but I think life without dessert is actually that much sweeter…because you feel better, have better energy and don’t feel weighed down by needless pounds. I think that it should be saved for just those times when you want “comfort” and if people get out of the habit of just eating it every time they have lunch or dinner we will all be just that much healthier!

  12. Kitchen Table Medicine April 8, 2008 at 9:32 am Reply

    Megan- Practice makes perfect. I think discipline around food or whatever else seems to “control” us simply takes time and patience to cultivate. Each day you just want to be better than the next. Next year you will be better than this year and so forth.

    I follow an “80/20” eating plan which means that 80% of the time I eat really well (mainly at home) and then the other 20% of the time I just don’t worry about things so much. Yes- you might even see me eating a hot dog at a Mariners game and think in HORROR that Dr. Nicole is a total hypocrite. As much as hot dogs are total nasty “food” I think we also need to have a healthy relationship with food and not be so attached to either extreme. Food is meant to nourish us and sometimes it simply is part of our culture and should be enjoyed strictly for social reasons. Like birthday cake for instance, let’s not give up birthday cake let’s just give up “Wednesday after lunch cake”…

  13. Kitchen Table Medicine April 8, 2008 at 9:39 am Reply

    Justin- I am going to write a blog on this topic just for you my dear because I have “been there and done that”. Sugar is a really difficult addiction to overcome because it is EVERYWHERE. It is not common to show up at your grandmas house and be handed a crack pipe, but it is common to be shoved full of sugar and other temptations. Read my response to Megan above this comment as it sounds like you guys are struggling with the same problem.

    First and foremost…Instead of starting out with taking something away it might be easier to start by adding something in…start adding more veggies to your diet. Veggies will stabillize your blood sugar from the high fiber and low sugar content which should leave you less likely to crave sugar.

    As you add in more good stuff the bad stuff will eventuallly get pushed out of your diet. Eventually you will notice how good you feel from nourishing your body with the things that it needs, you will no longer crave stuff that is “bad”. Moderation and self love are key here…

    Eating a good healthy meal is an act of self love…

    Now give yourself a big hug for me and go eat a rainbow colored plate of vegetables!

  14. Catherine- Hi nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by my kitchen table! Yes “slipping up” is exactly what gets us all in to trouble…especially when it becomes a nightly habit!

  15. Tim- That was so funny for me because I have had that same conversation with so many patients. I love the book “Motivational Interviewing” you can check it out in my bookstore. Basically I have adopted an interviewing style designed to get people off heroin that I have found helpful for changing lifestyle habits….

    “So what is it that you like so much about heroin (sugar, pizza, food, doughnuts, not exercising, etc, etc, etc)…?”


    “So what don’t you like about heroin…”

    Identifying the discrepancies between the outcomes of the goal and the behavior is integral for changing the behavior.

  16. I have that book and I’ve never read it! Maybe now’s the time thanks for the heads up 😉

  17. I want to eat healthy but I dont know how to cook which forces me to eat out for every meal, how can I overcome this?

  18. Tim- sure thing! Hope you find it as useful as I did…I think “life coaching” is really the only way to get people to make the necessary changes…which is why they should read our blogs if they can’t afford us right?

  19. McLaughlin- Maybe you should just find some nice girl to cook for you…that is what I would do…

  20. I do know a nice girl but she seems to like to eat out just as much as I do. She enables my bad habit.

  21. McLaughlin- You are lucky to know such a nice girl…perhaps she will start making you lunch and dinner all the time when she is not so busy. Maybe she will start with some clam pancakes…

  22. Dessert for our family is, for about 95% of the time, fruit.

    Sometimes plain fruit, like an orange, an apple, or banana.

    And other times, maybe a fruit salad, if we have the time or inclination to get “fancy”.

    And occasionally, a fruit smoothie.

    Things like cakes are reserved for birthdays, and ice cream is a rare treat — this makes the kids appreciate it even more and see the desserts you describe as rewards, not a privilege.

    Seems to be working for everyone so far.

  23. Nez- That is the exact formula for success!!!

  24. …and you hit on another one of my oddities. Yes, I love hot peppers as I just commented in your Mexican food blog.

    When I was in college I was working out tremendously and hanging out with the other athletes in the dorm. They challenged me to stop eating desserts and other sugary processed foods for 2 weeks and check my energy level. They were correct. Although I do give in occasionally (love carrot cake) I haven’t had chocolate since 1987. I can’t stand it. Or pop. Until I got the flu (influenza B) last month I hadn’t missed a day of work from being sick in 19 years. I am a testimony to the fact that it can be done.


  25. Dessert can be just as enjoyable using little or no sugar. I make a fruit pie that contains 1 tblspn sugar and only 40grams of butter. It tastes sensational and it doesn’t give you a sugar rush.

  26. […] time you feel tempted to buy something you really don’t need, like junk food, dessert, or heaven forbid McInflammation, breathe and then put that money towards your […]

  27. I gave up dessert 1 month ago and the rest of my meals are already starting to taste sweeter! x

  28. […] Try giving up dessert for a week or two, and see if that helps. Most night-time waking is caused by low blood sugar, because Americans commonly eat a sugary evening dessert that jacks their sugar up super high right before bed. As we sleep the sugar then comes crashing back down. The body always wakes us up to alert us of these kinds of imbalances. […]

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