I never thought that I would be able to say this, but I have officially gone one whole year without dessert. It all started on my twentieth birthday when my friend Olivia told me that I should try to go off dessert for thirty days with her. Feeling full from the obscene amounts of pizza that I had just crammed into my mouth, I readily agreed to the challenge. The next day I realized that my overstuffed stomach had lured me into a false sense of confidence, because I was already wanting to drop out of the challenge.
I was speaking on the phone with my sister Jenny about how hard my first day of not eating dessert was and how I was planning on ending the little competition. She forcefully told me that I had better not give up because Olivia had spoken to her on the phone and said that I would most likely fail. My chubby cheeks flushed with anger as I thought about what Olivia had said about me. How could she trash talk me to my own sister? I later thought about it and realized that Olivia was just sharing her frustration over how I had always made these commitments after eating an army’s worth of food and then dropping out after a day or two. She had not made the comments about me quitting to be mean; she was merely relying on past evidence to predict my outcome this time.
I am very grateful that my sister told me about what Olivia had said, because I was on my way to get ice cream when I was talking to her on the phone. After the call ended, I changed my direction from heading towards the cafeteria ice cream bar to an academic building to study. This small victory was the first of many.
Throughout those first thirty days I was tempted by some of the following situations: having people call my name and try to shove candy in my mouth when I turned towards them, receiving care packages full of candy from the kindhearted mothers of some guys in my dorm, and having someone climb on top of me as I sat in bed and try to force feed me a cheesecake brownie (thanks David Wright). In all of these situations, I thought about giving up and caving to my desires, but I would always think about how Olivia would be able to think “I knew it” if I failed. This pride helped me to push through the cravings.
As the end of the thirty days drew nearer, I began to think about how much better I was feeling from not eating dessert. Because I had not eaten any dessert in a few weeks, the cravings that I used to feel had pretty much dried up (I say “dried up” because I imagine that my cravings resemble chocolate syrup). It was then that I decided to not stop at thirty days but to continue on through a whole year.
As the year went on, I missed dessert less and less. People initially thought that I was crazy to do it, but once the benefits became clear, they started to agree with me that it was a good challenge for myself. The main benefit that I experienced was losing weight. I did not set out on this no dessert challenge to lose weight, but I quickly found that when you stop eating an average of 4,000 calories in dessert alone on a daily basis, you will lose weight. (If you have a hard time believing that number, check out my other blog post that gives more detail on my binge eating called “The ‘Happiest’ Binge Eater of All“). Another benefit was that I had more energy. No longer was I feeling like a Biggest Loser contestant upon reaching the top of a short flight of stairs; instead, I was starting to think that I might enjoy actual physical activity. It was from this point on that I began what has become one of my favorite pastimes: running.
It was six months into my no dessert challenge when I started running, and I believe that it is what allowed me to continue losing weight after my weight loss began to slow down. I started out by running one mile for five days in a row. After each of the first few times, I would lie on my floor and contemplate why I had just put my body through torture, but that did not stop me from continuing. Each week I added half a mile until I reached 3.11 miles (a 5K). I never tried to go further than 3.11 miles because I did not want to make my runs too time consuming, but I always had the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I should try to go further before my year ended.
Fast forward to the last few days of the year of no dessert. I was sitting in my room feeling quite melancholy. It may have been because of the weather or because I was coming off an intense caffeine high (unlimited coffee refills at Panera Bread will do that to you), but I decided to try to run further than 3.11 miles. It was this inspiration that got me to put on my running clothes and head out into the dark, wet night for a run, and that inspiration is what gave me one of my biggest accomplishments of the year.
As I ran, I kept thinking that I should just stop at 3.11 miles, but as I ran further I knew that doing so would kill any chances of me beating that threshold during the year since I had quit dessert. Once I reached 3.11 miles, I felt a surge of energy and knew that I could run further if I kept going and did not allow myself to quit. Soon I was at 4 miles, then 5, and finally 6. It was at 6.21 miles (a 10K) that I slowed to a walk. I had just done it. I had beaten my previous record of running a 5K by doubling it. That excitement may seem slightly stupid to some people (especially those who have run track or cross country in high school), but to me it showed how far I had come in one year.
In the past year I have lost fifty pounds, learned to use running instead of eating as a stress reliever, and figured out what it feels like to accomplish something that you have set your mind to. It was not an easy year by any means, but it was a year that I will forever remember as being the one that kept me from continuing on a trajectory towards living a life of being unhealthily overweight.
Many people have asked me what the future will look like. “Are you going to start binging on ice cream?” People will ask with the concern of a drug addictions counselor. I smile and tell them that I never want to go back to being the way that I was a year ago. I will be eating dessert tonight (since it is my birthday), but I am no longer going to allow it to control my life like it did a year ago. Who knows, I may find that I do not even enjoy it anymore. Whether I like it or not, I am excited to face the challenge of using moderation instead of binging.
Until next time,