When I woke up Tuesday, I had successfully gone thirty days without eating anything dessert related, both with sugar and sugar-free. For some, this might not be as big a challenge as for others, but I had a severe love for desserts, specifically of the baked variety.
I have a long standing tradition that each year, I try to accomplish some challenge by my birthday for that year. I’ve written about it previously, and for this year, I chose the thirty day sugar experiment. While it was perhaps less work than many of the other challenges, when I woke up this morning, it felt like just as big a win.
You may be wondering why I called it an experiment. It wasn’t because I was experimenting to see if I could do it. Rather, I wanted to test a theory I had about dessert. We know from several studies that endorphins are released when we eat high fat and sugar foods. You can read more about endorphins online, but the big picture is that they make us feel good. Many things can cause their release, and dessert is definitely one of them.
I wanted to test if it was the eating of the snack that made me feel good or it was a psychological connection between the moment at hand and the eating of the dessert that released the endorphins. In other words, would I really think sugary foods still tasted so amazing if I broke that psychological connection?
If you think back to your childhood, you probably mostly ate desserts on occasions that already made you feel good, like birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, rewards for good grade or other achievements, etc. So is it possible that we are trained from childhood to associate feeling good with sugar? And, as will all drugs, we know that we eventually build up a resistance and then need more and more.
I wasn’t sure if thirty days would be enough to test this, but I gave it a shot. When I began the thirty days, the first ten were the absolute hardest. Everything tempted me. But as time went on it got easier and easier and I felt less interested in the dessert. I “only” lost three pounds during that time, but I had already lost 40 pounds over the last year any way and I eat pretty clean besides the deesserts so there wasn’t as much to lose. But that was three pounds without changing a single other thing.
The real test wasn’t if I would lose weight; that wasn’t even a goal. The real question was how amazingly delicious would dessert be today after not having it for thirty days. I started out with breakfast at Starbucks. To my amazement my Starbucks released a new cinnamon roll this morning! Cinnamon rolls are one of my absolute favorites and biggest weaknesses. This one was about half the size of the one at Panera. I ordered one along with a Double Fudge donut (which, by the way is very, very small). I ate both and then followed those up with a classic coffee cake. Overboard for sure, but it had been thirty days and I deserved it!
Then, in the late afternoon, I had the Hot Cookie dessert from Coldstone. I was unable to finish it, and by the time I was back to my room I was feeling buzzed and sick at my stomach from the half of it I had eaten.
While that may seem like a lot of sugar, I had done that much in a day many, many times without any immediate repercussions. The biggest verdict after eating all of these? While the cinnamon roll was tasty, I honestly felt like the entire experience was very anti-climatic. It tasted slightly good, but this was what I had been anticipating for 30 days? And then to feel sick afterward…what was the point? I had really expected to have my socks knocked off by what I had been missing, but it was such a let down. It was difficult to understand why it would have ever been hard to give this up in the first place.
Along the way, I also noticed that my appetite has gone way down. I don’t eat nearly as much as I used to. At this point, I don’t have an emotional pull toward desserts that I once did. I feel like in just thirty days I’ve broken through that barrier and today was able to taste the sugary substances as just what they are, without all the extra power of the endorphins I had long trained to accompany the experience. Mostly, they all just tasted like a big plate of sugar.
I highly recommend trying it out yourself. I’ve been wanting to do the 21 Day Sugar Detox for a while, which is far more involved than just giving up desserts. I think I’ll start that later this month. And when I do, I’ll report back with my results.