I have a serious sweet tooth. Despite being a bit of a health nut, when my sugar addiction kicks in, there's no stopping it. I can go all day enjoying healthy, clean, organic meals, only to top it off with one too many cupcakes. OK, fine, three too many. Sometimes I can keep the cravings at bay, but recently, I found myself overdoing it more often than not.
Part of the problem is that my partner also has a sweet tooth, and it's not always in sync with mine. On any given night, chances are pretty high that one of us is willing to run out to get an after-dinner treat. The deal then sweetens for me the following day when he leaves for work at the fire department, leaving me home alone with the dessert leftovers for 48 hours. It's one thing to have the willpower not to purchase sugar-filled goodies, but it's near impossible to resist eating them when they're taunting you from the kitchen.
And without fail, every time I polish off the cheesecake or box of cookies, I feel guilty and physically pay for it for days — sometimes even weeks — later. My skin usually breaks out, my mood turns a little south, and I swear it makes my period cramps worse.
I finally decided it was time to put an end to the dessert-mania — and knowing my all-or-nothing nature does well with a more structured challenge, I chose to make a clean break, pledging to give up all sweets for 40 days. At first, it wasn't too bad. Sure, those sugar cravings came on strong, but my willpower found solace in the very clear rules. For the first couple weeks, I was well ahead of my sugar addiction.
After the 40 days was up and I could return to eating sweets, I found I actually preferred the berries and peanut butter.
But then mentally I began to tire, and my dessert cravings were right on my heels, just waiting for me to find some justification for why it was OK to quit early. Rather than fail the challenge, I tried a healthy replacement. I put a couple scoops of peanut butter in a glass container, heated it up in the oven, then stirred in blueberries and strawberries. It was delicious! And because berries are low on the glycemic index, and peanut butter (in moderation) is a great source of healthy fats, it was so much healthier. Plus, I love peanut butter.
After the 40 days was up and I could return to eating sweets, the strangest thing happened. I found I actually preferred the berries and peanut butter. When my boyfriend came home with a cheesecake from Trader Joe's (one of our go-to desserts), I had a piece. After all, I'm not trying to completely deny myself an occasional indulgence — I'm simply looking for a healthy balance. Oddly enough, I found myself not enjoying the cheesecake as much as I remembered. It didn't seem to have as much flavor as my newfound go-to dessert. And when he headed off to the fire station the next day, that cheesecake sat in the refrigerator untouched until he got home. That's a first in our household!
I don't eat the berries and peanut butter every night, and I'll occasionally still buy a sugar-filled dessert. But I've finally found balance, and I'm still able to treat myself after dinner, minus the breakouts.