Dessert Planning

My client, Jen, recently gave up all sugar and desserts for a month leading up to her birthday because she wanted to prove to herself that she could do it. She knew that she wouldn’t give them up forever, but she wanted a bit of a reset. Throughout the month, Jen consistently told me how great it was not eating dessert because after about a week, her sugar cravings went away almost entirely. She stopped thinking about sweets so much and when she encountered them, she didn’t struggle with whether to have them. Last week, Jen told me that her month was coming to an end and already she was having more sugar cravings just thinking about having dessert again. This was frustrating, but to be expected.

When I met with Jen this week, she told me that she started having dessert again and already it was a problem. She was having more cravings, and twice last week she ate double what she thought she would have. I asked Jen if she had a clear plan every day for what dessert and how much of it she would have. She replied that she didn’t. I discussed with Jen that likely part of what made her month of no dessert so easy was that there was no choice involved. She just wasn’t having any, and that was the clear plan. The hard part of dieting really is the struggle – dieters going back and forth in their minds about whether to eat something. (Should I have more dessert? No, I really shouldn’t. But it would taste so good. But no, you’ve had enough. But I really, really want it.) When there is no choice, there is no struggle and things feel much easier.

To make dessert feel manageable again, Jen and I decided that the first thing she would do is every morning she would make a very clear dessert plan: what she would have (if any) and when she would have it. No spontaneous dessert decisions. Jen and I discussed that once she started sticking to her dessert plan, her cravings and her sabotaging thoughts would likely diminish because she would once again be in a “no choice” situation: “I stick to my dessert plan no matter what.”

We also made a Response Card for Jen to read right after she finished dessert:

Even though I’d like more dessert now, it’s worth it to stop because my long-term weight loss goals are so important to me. This craving that I’m having is TEMPORARY and the moment I get distracted is the moment it starts to go away. It’s uncomfortable but I can handle it; nothing bad is happening. Stopping now will enable me to prove to myself that I stick to my dessert plan no matter what, and once I prove that, I will have peace in my head again. It’s worth it to stop now for PEACE.

Jen and I also decided that she would plan (in advance) a compelling activity to do right after she finished dessert. Things like: taking her dog for a walk, reading her book, watching a TV show she really enjoys, organizing pictures on her phone, calling her mom or her sister, or emailing a friend.

With these tools in place: a clear dessert plan, a helpful Response Card, and a compelling activity, Jen left feeling much more confident about her ability to get back to a place where eating dessert felt manageable and peaceful.

5 replies
  1. Madonna Molinari
    Madonna Molinari says:

    I think Jen did a great job and it has inspired me to try it. Every time we go away for work or pleasure the hotels we stay at always leave a little treat in our room daily. I have always thought, “well, its been a day, I deserve that treat, go ahead an eat it”. I do, they I get mad I myself for eating it. I think if I plan to have something in advance and throw out the balance I would feel better. If I see it…I want it.
    This was very helpful!

  2. Rose
    Rose says:

    This was very helpful!! Thank you. I am giving up desserts also because it’s so much easier to just say “NO”. There is nothing to argue with yourself about. We are going to a family reunion picnic this weekend and I was just debating on whether or not I will allow myself to have a dessert. I still haven’t decided but I will definately use the above response card if I do. Thanks!!

  3. Kara Kellogg
    Kara Kellogg says:

    Abstinence can be a hard decision to make, but removing the internal negotiation actually makes it so much easier!

  4. Gary Jones
    Gary Jones says:

    I have given up sugary desserts and high-carb cakes, but I still have dessert in the form of fruit. It doesn’t replace chocolate, of course, but I let it serve the desire for something sweet to finish off my meal and “shut down” my palate.


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