I’ve said before how long it took me to accept that nutrition is the key element of fitness. I converted to clean eating over the course of an entire decade, but managed to really buckle down by 2011. Now I’m an 80%er for life, but it didn’t come without some strategy, in the form of small steps in the right direction. One such step was toward my life-long infatuation with sweets.
By the time I started my transformation 2 years ago, I had pretty much ousted chips, cereal and full-fat dairy from my diet. However, I still clung to sugar like an addict on an episode of Intervention. Without the advent of modern dentistry and the continual inundation of fluoride and floss, I’d possess nary a tooth in my head. Let’s just say the branches on my family tree are dressed with bark of the peppermint variety.
Dessert was a food group for me, and sometimes encompassed entire meals. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s the truth, and I now have to treat sugar like the addictive substance it is. Do I still eat it? Yes, but in very small doses. Was it hard to give up? You bet, and I still struggle with it all the time. My strategy? A plan that begins with reduction, peaks at elimination, then ends in moderation. And the steps? Small in nature, like those of a baby.
STEP 1 REDUCTION
Back in the day I could down a three-course meal, wash it down with a few cocktails, and polish the night off with a dessert the size of my head. Even though I didn’t eat this way every night, I usually provided myself with a steady stream of sweet treats in some form throughout each day. So when I decided to tackle the sugar beast, I did so with a little bit of discomfort. After all, reducing the portion from a 500 calorie banana split (or seven servings-worth of dives into the cookie jar) to a 100-150 calorie micro treat once a day was less of a baby step and more of a gargantuan leap.
Science has proven that eating slowly helps your brain register your true satiety, which gives you that full feeling and keeps you from overeating. I had practiced this during my stint with Weight Watchers many years ago, so I knew it worked. And this became my plan. Eat less sugar, and take my time doing it. I started by allowing myself dessert every night for probably a good 6 months. After a full day of clean eating I really relished that after-dinner finisher, and I firmly believe that this single move kept me from veering off course.
I began with Diana’s Bananas Milk Chocolate Banana Babies. These are awesome little frozen half-bananas dipped in chocolate. I love the flavor combo, and their frozen nature requires a wee bit more time to ingest. Calorie count is 130 per serving.
I then whittled my way down to the 100 calorie pouches of Keebler Right Bites. The fudge stripes or chocolate covered pretzels were my mainstay, and I liked that I had a choice of which set of 8 tiny cookies to choose from. Please note that although I’d reduced the calories for this dessert, I know from a nutritional standpoint that this was clearly a step down. However, keep in mind that this was just that. A step. I didn’t linger in this phase too long and kept progressing…well sort of.
Candy – an even lower rung on the nutritional ladder. Now this one is interesting because I had myself psyched into believing that 2 York Peppermint Patty Miniatures comprised a total sum of 75 calories. Looking at the package now, I see it was still the same 100 calories I thought I’d moved on from. Oh well, good thing this blip was short-lived as well!
Enter Crystal Light. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard me sing the praises of this little miracle drink before. For about 5 calories you can enjoy a veritable flavor festival of liquid delight, which strangely enough tamed that sweet tooth for many an evening. You can even make popsicles out of them too! My favorites included Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade and Fruit Punch, not to mention their new line of ‘mocktails’ aimed at another of my hard-fought carby demons – alcohol. But I digress. Anyway. This ritual of a sweet beverage after dinner became the backbone of my de-dessert plan, and it’s the one I currently use today. However, before this all solidified, I hit another milestone…
STEP 2 ELIMINATION
Last summer I had scheduled my first transformation photo shoot, and I was bound and determined to look my best. In all my frothy “let’s-see-how-far-I can-take-this” ambition I cast down the sugary treats and went dessertless for the weeks leading up to the photo session and thereafter, until my second shoot this past January. That adds up to about 6 months worth of absolutely nothing after dinner. I became very accustomed to this and after a while really didn’t miss it at all. So I CAN do it. I DID do it. AND I can do it again. Going through this step was my key to avoiding the slippery slope that can sometimes come with attempts at…
STEP 3 MODERATION
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about all this bodybuilding business, it’s that sustaining a photo-ready physique isn’t realistic, at least for me. Now that I’ve pretty much reached the pinnacle of the absolute best I’ll ever look, I’ve settled into more of a moderate approach to my diet. I still eat clean all day, most every day. I just eat a little more than I would if I was trying to lean out. And I still have and I believe ALWAYS will have my cheat meals.
These days I will sometimes have a Crystal Light Mojito or a cup of hot Lemon Ginger tea with stevia when I’m feeling the after-dinner need. On particularly monthly days I’ll even indulge in my latest discovery, Diana’s Bananas Bites. Each bite (not serving) has 26 calories – so a totally doable little tidbit of loveliness.
Even with these sometimes treats, I feel confident in proclaiming, that I have definitely kicked my old dessert habit. It was a tough fight, but I really did accomplish this feat. Knowing that I’ll still get a little something from time to time gives me hope that this de-sweetening of my most prominent tooth will prevail for the long haul.
How do you deal with dessert?