How To Eat Dessert And Still Stay Skinny

by | Jun 20, 2012

Photo by E.Baron

Cutting processed foods and refined sugars out of your diet is arguably the most important dietary change you can make to improve health and lose weight. But will one slice of birthday cake inevitably tighten your pants and cut your life short?

Not necessarily.

Quality of life is hard to measure, but it certainly involves some balance between good health and hedonistic enjoyment of things that might not be perfectly healthy. The question is how we find this balance for ourselves, and how do we make sure our behavior helps us keep that balance?

The answer, of course, will be different for everyone. Competitive athletes have higher physical demands for maintaining ideal health than, say, a scientist. And I’m not a fan of watering down my favorite foods—especially desserts—with “healthier” ingredients. But there are a few general guidelines that can help the majority of us live a little without constantly fighting the battle of the bulge.

9 Tips For Dealing With Dessert

1. Eat dessert once per week or less

As a general rule I try to keep my dessert consumption to once per week or less (it is often less). A larger person may be able to get away with a bit more, but setting a weekly maximum can help you keep tabs on your sugar consumption. If you are actively trying to lose weight, aiming for once every two weeks or less is ideal.

Sugar is problematic for several reasons. Most of you probably realize by now that excess sugar causes rapid blood sugar and insulin spikes that force extra calories to be stored as fat. Over time these spikes will alter your sensitivity to insulin, negatively impacting your metabolism and risk of type 2 diabetes. Extra insulin signaling is also associated with heart disease, high blood pressure and accelerated aging.

The less refined sugar you eat the better, but assuming most of us aren’t willing to give it up completely it is helpful to have a weekly maximum to keep consumption in a reasonable range.

2. Pick your occasions

Once you decide to budget your sugar consumption, it is time to start choosing your priorities.

Is your weekly group meeting at the office (the one where there’s always doughnuts) really a special occasion? In other words, is that stale chocolate doughnut you wolf down while half asleep really worth the extra workout or skipping dessert with your kids this weekend? Probably not.

If you think about it, there’s a good chance you don’t even enjoy that doughnut as much as you assume you do. And we both know you’ll feel horrible after eating it anyway. So why do you believe that you want it?

When you stop and really think about your food choices, you’ll often find that many of them come from conditioning rather than true preference. But just because 12-year old you liked low-quality sweets doesn’t mean the adult you has to continue eating them.

Save desserts for the times that are really worth it, and realize you aren’t missing much by skipping the Costco brownie bites.

3. Don’t eat dessert alone

Special occasions are moments of celebration you share with people you care about. One of the wonderful things about life is these moments happen all the time. Our weeks and months are perpetually marked by birthdays, weddings, promotions, vacations and a million other reasons to celebrate. Use these special times as cues for when to indulge.

On the other hand, there is nothing particularly special about sitting alone on your couch watching TV. Try to get out of the habit of eating dessert alone, especially if this is something you rely on for comfort. If you just want something sweet, try having a piece of fruit or some herbal tea instead.

I recommend not keeping any pre-made desserts in the house at all. Why torture yourself?

4. Know dessert when you see it

If you’re eating dessert several times a day but only think you are eating it once or twice per week, none of these rules are going to help you maintain your health and physique.

I’ve written before about the hidden sugars in common foods such as sandwiches, salads and fruit yogurts. There are clearly benefits to eating a salad, but syrupy dressings contribute to your sugar intake whether there is lettuce around or not. Overly sweet non-dessert foods make it more difficult for you to enjoy real indulgences without consequences.

Be aware of the sugar content in the foods you eat and actively try to minimize it in the bulk of your diet (i.e. choose sandwiches without teriyaki or BBQ sauce, salads with savory (not sweet) dressing, cocktails without juice or syrup, and plain yogurt).

If you’re eating healthy and minimizing sugar 90+% of the time, your waist will hardly notice the occasional birthday cupcake.

5. Little indulgences count

Just as you cannot ignore the 27 grams of sugar in Yoplait yogurt, you can’t grab 2 or 3 pieces of candy every afternoon from the bowl in the office without it adding up.

Be aware of the little cheats you make throughout the week and don’t kid yourself about their impact. If you decide that the work day is just too hard to get through without these, that’s fine. But you aren’t doing yourself any favors by pretending they don’t exist. Remember to count them in your mental dessert tally and keep it in mind when you’re looking lustfully at your grandma’s homemade apple pie and wishing you hadn’t had so much sugar this week.

6. Choose quality over quantity

If your goal is to limit your sweets but you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out, make sure your choices emphasize quality over quantity.

A few bites of good quality dark chocolate is infinitely more satisfying than a handful of Hershey’s kisses. Desserts can rack up 25-50 calories per bite. Get the most bang for your buck by picking foods with actual flavor and not just extra sugar and salt.

Hint: This tip should also help you stick to tips #2 and #5.

7. Go splitsies

Half a dessert is 100% better for you than a whole dessert.

If you really really want to try one of those cookies your co-worker has been bragging about for months but have already had your ice cream this week, try taking only half of one. Better yet, find someone to split it with you so you aren’t tempted to finish it. If it’s that good, a few bites should be plenty satisfying.

8. Resist peer pressure

Some people take a special pleasure in encouraging others to do things they know are bad for them. These people also tend to be good at recruiting others to join in their banter.

Be prepared to get nagged occasionally for not wanting to eat foods that aren’t worth it. But if you have decided in advance to stick to desserts you know taste better than what your friends are pushing, it really isn’t that hard to ignore them.

Who’s really missing out here?

9. Use the gym

Despite our best efforts, we all eat too much dessert every now and then. This isn’t good, but it isn’t the end of the world either.

When this happens to me I use it as an opportunity to amp up my workout routine. By far my best runs are on days when we have birthday cake in lab–I feel like I can run for days with all my extra energy.

Your muscles use sugar as fuel, so use it up while you can and give your metabolism a little boost (having a little extra blood sugar and insulin around when you’re exercising can actually improve your metabolism) and prevent those spare calories from being stored as fat.

You’ll probably feel better after working it off too.

How do you deal with dessert in your healthstyle?

Originally published March 31, 2010

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64 Responses to “How To Eat Dessert And Still Stay Skinny”

  1. thomas says:

    i will agree with jeff garlin (on what he said on Real Time with Bill Maher). if you been fat you should keep it AA style.
    because most fat people (i know) can’t keep up with your advice imo.

  2. Great article. Lots of good advice. I try to only eat dessert when I bake it myself (or at a friends party). And I always half the batch!

    I am so down on sugar, its definitely the most important things to keep an eye on in our diets.

    You can make some great deserts with simply baked fruit. We always keep 88% cacao dark chocolate in the cupboard – a square barely contains any sugar and is very heart healthy.

  3. We don’t keep any dessert food at home (beyond fruits, which we’ll sometimes make into smoothies with almond or soy milk).

    My work is a different story. Our kitchen is stocked with chocolates and candies and there’s always some sort of sweet baked something up for grabs. People frequently come in with donuts or coffee cake or cupcakes.

    I’m trying to stick with the rule that I’ll only eat it if it’s homemade, and if possible the tiniest piece I can eat. I also force myself to throw it away if it’s not amazingly good. If after 2 bites I’m not floored by its awesomeness, it goes in the trash before I can ask myself if I want a 3rd.

    • Darya Pino says:

      I love that last point, and I definitely do the same thing. Great work!!

    • Madison says:

      I also love that last point as I do the same thing. In an attempt to not be “that” girl in the office that always says no to homemade baked goods, I will always take one, have a bite and take the rest home to my bf. This works for me because most of the time, I just want a taste.

    • Laura says:

      I just did this today! Was two bites into flan at lunch and decided that was more than enough.
      Free sweets at work is killer though!

    • Karen b. says:

      I didn’t grow up eating desserts and I don’t enjoy them very often. A lot of dessert foods are just too darned sweet for me and don’t have enough real flavor. I did have a doughnut about a month ago that I absolutely savored but that was the first doughnut I’ve eaten in about 2 years and it was a Mother’s day gift from a friend (and from a special bakery).
      I’ve never fed dessert to my children either and they’ve never missed it or asked for it. Sometimes we have fruit as a side dish or a treat. About once a year I make brownies or cookies and that’s about it. We don’t drink soda either because I only had it on Friday nights growing up and don’t even like it now. My kids get it when they are with their dad who thinks every home should have a case or two of soda in the fridge. All of that sweet stuff is so foreign to me and I hope it will continue to be for my children and their families.
      Unfortunately, I am slightly overweight, according to my BMI. My Mom always hid potato chips, potato sticks and other crunchy snacks and when I would find them I would devour them right there, even if I had to climb up cupboards to get them. I swear it was because she hid them. I still crave crunchy, salty snacks and have a difficult time staying away from them. Lately, when I really feel like I NEED something (definitely emotional eating), I’ll eat it in place of a meal and then have some fresh veggie juice to amp up the vits and mins.

  4. Kasey says:

    What do you qualify as dessert? I eat a few squares of dark chocolate every night after dinner..and often splurge on the weekends with what I consider a ‘full-blown’ dessert. I’m at the gym every week, and I feel like the dark chocolate isn’t really a serious dessert. What are your thoughts, Darya?

    • Darya Pino says:

      Well if you aren’t gaining weight whatever you’re doing is fine 🙂 As for dessert, I generally use the 15 g of sugar per serving rule that I mentioned in last week’s sugar post. Dark chocolate has other benefits too. Unless you’re looking to lose weight, your healthstyle seems great to me!

  5. Allie says:

    My question would be how to handle NOT eating dessert at special occasions. I do not usually like cake but whenever I’m at a birthday party or wedding, I feel very rude when I’m the only one who declined a slice and am standing there empty handed while everyone else enjoying it and commenting on how good it is. Should I just eat the cake?

    • Darya Pino says:

      LOL, great question! I totally know what you mean, especially when the cakes are gross. I always take a slice (asking for a small one, of course). Then I just hold it. Maybe take one or two bites. Then when most people are done I toss it out when everyone else is dumping their plates or when the waiters are cleaning up. No one notices.

  6. Brenna Waack says:

    Out of sight, out of mind. There are currently three boxes of thin mints in our freezer (I did not buy them). But they are at the back and hidden by cabbage and other frozen oddities. Basically, it takes way too much effort to get to them.

  7. Tammy says:

    Hi Darya!
    You said…
    “Your muscles use sugar as fuel, so use it up while you can and give your metabolism a little boost and prevent those spare calories from being stored as fat.”

    I’ve known this for a while, and when I feel I’ve indulged a little too much I’ll make it a point to go run before the sugar turns to fat. My question is…how long do I have?!? If I ate too much ice cream before bed, does getting up 6 hours later and running in the morning benefit, or did those calories already turn to fat?

    • Darya Pino says:

      The time before the fuel converts to fat will be different for everybody, depending on your metabolism. But it sounds to me like you’re thinking about this wrong. You shouldn’t be counting on exercise to justify eating too much ice cream before bed. Develop a healthy relationship with food/dessert/exercise and you don’t have to worry about this kind of thing.

      • Tammy says:

        Thanks Darya – Yes, I do understand having a healthy relationship with food. I’m actually a very very clean eater…but when I do accidently feel I’ve slipped up (maybe 1x month) I’d still like to have a better understanding of what I can do to remedy the situation. Can you give me a loose timeframe? Right now I’m not sure if this process happens over 2 hours, or 10 hours lol. Thanks!

  8. Patrick says:

    I’m also sticking to the once per week rule. But if there’s this special dessert at home I’m not like “if you eat it, you’re bad..” instead I tend to eat as a treat to myself because I know the next days (or weeks) are going to be normal again and I’m just fine!

    It’s working out pretty well!

  9. Benson says:

    I am in the middle of a year long bike tour. If I have a chance, I’ll have dessert every day, and I don’t generally go for small quantities. I also typically work out for five to seven hours every day. I’m losing weight and feeling good. I’m not sure it’s the best way to eat to maintain optimal health, but it does seem to be working fairly well. I probably burn 3500 calories a day. Is the advice to avoid sweets still applicable to me?

    I know I’ll have to make radical changes to my diet when I return from this trip, but I’d love to know what folks think I should be eating now.

    • Darya Pino says:

      Even without weight gain sugar consumption has many potential dangers, including accelerated aging, cancer, osteoporosis and other problems. If you need more calories, I recommend focusing on natural, unprocessed sources of fat, protein and carbohydrate.

  10. Becky says:

    I’m losing weight even though I’m still eating dessert 3-4 times a week because I was eating 3-4 desserts a day. I did do a sugar fast at first, but twice a week was just more than I’ve been able to hold it too. I have made some other healthstyle changes– increased water and tea, reduced portion sizes, and eliminated most processed foods and non -intact whole grains (still have some pasta and bread occasionally).

    Instead of the daily afternoon search for something sweet at work I now have 1/4 cup of almonds. I now think (as I look around) and consider how much food that we don’t think of as dessert that should count (aka yoplait and szechuan salad and soda) that probably most americans could dramatically improve their health and lose weight and still eat dessert several times a week. Because several times a week is still much, much less than what most people do.

  11. bobcat says:

    Or instead of going to the gym, go jog outside! It increases your feeling of being connected to nature, which will probably reduce the desire for crappy food (my observation).

  12. MB says:

    Very nice tips list! Thank you for writing it. : -)

    from my experience:

    1. oh, that’s the TOUGH one.
    someone used to have sugary treats everyday will pass through hell to lose the habit (and crawling on the walls, like the bat-demon version of Dracula in the Coppola movie… : -)
    … but, there are options – as also mentioned in the article – smaller portions, for a start; or try some yogurt&wheatgerm (it’s sweetish) + sprinkle some fruit/dried fruit; or dried fruits &nuts (I wouldn’t advocate only dried fruits – they are too sugary); or a slice of slow-risen wholemeal bread&few dried fruits… and always chew every bit longer – like enjoying all the flavors (adding some cinnamon / vanilla seeds will soothe the nose too)… or the sugars-free options: breath in , drink a glass of water and ask yourself why exactly you need that sugar-fix; even have a walk outside.

    2. true.
    also I think that always being stressed of what to do at special occasions adds to the general stress and will trick your body into actually storing more fats than if you’d be relaxed.
    If it’s a meal – try to eat during it as few as possible sauces, refined flours and more fibers …and the dessert – either ask for a small portion, or keep chewing a mouthful for longer, and wait for the others to wolf down their portions, then put down the rest, since everybody else finished. : -)

    3. well, the ads on TV say something totally different.

    4. that’s very depressing. especially when relying on the lunch being provided by the food shop inside an institution …

    5. little indulgences mean that for around 30 minutes you might be very chirpy&alert, afterwards the gloom comes.

    6. very much agree.
    I buy 100% chocolate and can’t go beyond one square . also they don’t fit too well after many meals , so it’s not exactly the right dessert. and very pricey (stored in a tight closed box keep for long, so you won’t feel compelled to finish it soon)

    7. well, when the other one wants something else it’s a bit difficult : o)

    8. hm, another tough one. Especially those little teasers which feel good only when bullying (it’s bullying, right? ) others about food choices.

    9. ……. agree
    (as far as I know the body has enough storing of glycogen that you won’t be let down during a gym session – but it’s important the rhythm, and the weight : start at a low pace, and increase in time, otherwise you’ll feel drained and think a juice/ “energy” drink will fix it – and all you need is just some natural water)

    Also, regarding the sugar cravings & health issues, I also found interesting the theory that C.albicans&other strains might have a part in here; now, I know there is a whole debate (or maybe war? because indeed haste & poor documentation played a huge role in the mess) on whether this fungus that lives in our intestines has such a tremendous part in making us sick as some portraits, but it definitely has some secrets. As somebody with some annoying symptoms relieved after a so called “anti-candida diet”, it really made me take a better look at what I eat and how.

  13. Jade says:

    Hi Darya! I’m a 15 year old teen and have been super thin all my life, but lately I’m gaining weight 🙁 I never watched what I ate and suddenly the junk I had no problem eating before is taking its toll! My (also very thin) mother buys ice cream, cookies, candy…..and it’s hard to resist it, especially when eating it does nothing to her and I’m used to junk food. So I’ll eat healthy all day then eat a few bites of ice cream or some brownies. Is this bad if it happens every day? It’s more like one dessert a day for me instead of once a week, but I just can’t diet! Is there any way to be healthy&thin yet continue eating sweets? I exercise and eat healthy meals, but I can’t resist the sweets, and trying to restrict just makes me eat more. One part of me wants to cut off sugar to keep my sleek physique, but the other wants to just be a kid& enjoy life. Is it normal at this age to just want to indulge and not think twice?

    • Darya Pino says:

      You’re young so eating healthy most of the time is fine for you. But the sweets ever starts making you unhappy you know what to do. Enjoy that metabolism while it lasts, you won’t like what happens when you hit 25! 😉

    • Niquel says:

      Hey Jade!

      I’m eighteen years old and I’ve struggled with weight all my life. When I was fifteen, I weighed 210 pounds. I lost sixty pounds (putting me at 150), but never achieved my dream weight. Even though I was watching what I ate, I gradually gained it back until I was at 185. Now I’m trying to lose it again and I’ve gotten down to 177. I haven’t been careless. I don’t drink soda. I hardly eat sweets, except on occasions. I hate having to be on this up and down path all the time. I can never keep a wardrobe because I’m never the same size. I don’t like swimming, or ordering in public, and I loathe shopping for clothes. It drains my confidence and happiness. Please take it from me–start good eating habits now. Don’t start when you’re twenty-five. Don’t start when it’s too late. Indulge when it’s appropriate. I’m not saying you should never eat a brownie or KFC. I’m saying that you won’t be a “kid just enjoying life” forever. I’m starting college in the fall, and I really hope I’m not 200 pounds when I do.

      • Kate says:

        I used to enjoy fast food until I saw the movies and videos about them and now the food truely grosses me out. Chemical sandwich of years old meat that was made by abusing animals.
        See Food Inc. and Super Size Me.
        Now I need to do some reasesrch on processed foods.
        Especially sugar ones….

  14. Natasha says:

    Hahahahaha. Dessert once a week? This makes me feel so unhealthy. Dessert only once a day is like a record for me.

    I’m 16, and in my experienceand for people with high metabolisms, especially younger people, positive is always, always better than negative, that is, adding things like working out every day will be much more effective than trying to cut out things like totally pigging out on junk food all te time.

    Especially because kids should enjoy food while they can.

  15. Erica says:

    Sorry I do not agree with you. Your thoughts on food and exercise could lead to sabatoge. Exercise should not be used as a weapon to get rid of calories. It should be a way to have fun and feel good. It should never be a punishment. Dessert can be eaten everyday if desired. I am thin and eat dessert daily. The more you tell yourself you can’t have something the more you want it. You should look into intuitive eating.

    • Kate says:

      I agree, excercise should be a healthy fun physical activity.

      However, many people can not handle sugar. If you can eat it every day, good for you. But if you have the body type that can’t handle it and /or is addicted to it, it is very bad for you.

  16. Jason says:

    10. Redefine Dessert! The root of the word is French, desservir. It means to clear the table. In Britain dessert is synonymous with sliced fruit after the main course. Finish a meal like a European with grapes and/or a sliver of fine cheese. “Let them(the underclass) eat cake”. Parisians do not seek out low fat food but are relatively fat free due to their culinary habits. Americans have grown accustomed to Texas sized portions of processed sugar, flour and cream. It is an excess of our society that is self evident in the rampant obesity. If you must have that favorite pastry, don’t eat it late at night after a big dinner. Take it home and eat it with your coffee the next morning. You will enjoy it more and have all day to burn it off rather than sleep on it.

    • Elaine says:

      Really? I lived in Britain for the past 14 years, and was never once offered fruit at the end of the meal. Nope, they go in for ‘puddings’ mostly sickly sweet concoctions that probably have more calories than the main course. Then there’s the infamous Christmas pudding that reminds me more of a canon ball than anything you’d want to eat after a big meal.

  17. janatmsn says:

    I have always done better having dessert rather than avoiding it. I have always felt that it helps to digest the main meal I have just eaten. When I have dessert I do not feel bloated and the sugar in it never bothers me. It seems when I start crazy analyzation and skip things I usually have eaten in the past (dessert for one) that I gain weight.

  18. MJS says:

    3. Don’t eat dessert alone. Um. Well. My diet strategy is to never eat sugar with other people, but I’m single and eat alone most of the time. I’d rephrase this as Eat dessert on special occasions only. I make Junk Food Coupons every New Years Day for 3 splurges per month. When the coupons are gone, no more sugar or white starch during that month. Spending a coupon on one stale donut is real waste; high-end treats are much more satisfying.

  19. El Cocinillas says:

    Why do you confuse the word “dessert” with unhealthy foods? I think suggesting people not to have dessert at all is completely wrong. It’s just better finding very enjoyable but healthy desserts for daily, and take those not-so-healthy desserts once per week. But never say “do not have dessert”!

    There’s pretty sweet and healthy foods you can have after lunch and even dinner, on a daily basis. You just should avoid high fat and calory intakes. But an oven baked apple is just as sweet as any chocolate cake around, and still healthy to have on a daily basis.

    Just do a little search…

  20. El Cocinillas says:

    There for example,among others:

    “1. Eat dessert once per week or less

    As a general rule I try to keep my dessert consumption to once per week or less (it is often less). :-)”

    My general rule is: try to keep your dessert consumption to at least once per day, do not avoid, just choose the healthiest ones.

    Refraining for a whole week 1) is not healthy 2) Will make you eat 3 times more next time you allow yourself 3) Will make you more anxious for the rest of the day, while if your mind gets used not to eat anymore after certain desserts, you’ll feel less stressed about food.

    • Darya Pino says:

      It’s ridiculous to say not eating dessert for a week is unhealthy. It may have a negative emotional or psychological impact for some people (you it seems), but it’s definitely not unhealthy biologically.

      Like I said, different things work for different people. I rarely want dessert more than once a week. I rarely think about it really, but I eat fruit regularly and never deprive myself of anything I want. It works for me. But I’ve also noticed around holidays and things when dessert starts popping up as a more frequent option, I definitely notice the impact.

      • Kate says:

        Thank you for this website it is very helpful to me.

        I was ready to stop eatting sugar all together- Which I adore sugar-
        Because of the potential to over eat it.

        But I do think I can eat one a week.

        I personally prefer to eat isugar n solitude, because if I am talking I miss out on the flavor and I do not like sharing something I have one a week : )

  21. Sandy Vo says:

    This is such a clever way to stay skinny. I have a terrible sweet tooth and knowing these tips will definitely help me stay fit ! Thanks for the post!

  22. It’s genuinely interesting that anyone can believe that *not* eating dessert is somehow unhealthy. The truth is that dessert is unhealthy – sugar is not good for you. I think Darya’s tips for managing dessert intake are really great, and appropriate. I’d even say eating dessert less than once a week would be good way to go, if you can manage it.

    Because sugar is so addictive, having objective “rules” to follow that guide choices is really helpful. If you have a craving, you can say to yourself, “The rule is, I can’t have dessert unless it’s high-quality and I’ve got company” It’s really an effective technique.

    Also, the sweet cravings are only momentary, so the trick is to get passed them. One thing I do, which really helps me, is if I have a craving for some unhealthy food, I try to do some exercise e.g. do a set of push-ups. I find the craving has disappeared by the end of the set. I suspect part of the reason it works is you force your brain to think of something else – in that case, concentrating on doing the push-ups with slow, perfect form. The cool thing about that is it’s a kind of double benefit – not only did you not eat the garbage, you also got some positive benefit from a bit of extra exercise.

    • Darya Pino says:

      Thanks for the props. I actually realized after I replied to this dude that he’s a troll, so I spammed the rest of his asinine comments. Ah, the internet.

      • El Cocinita says:

        Seriously sorry if was rude, but I am not a troll… maybe I was just having a bad moment and read too much stuff at the same tiime from people writing online, suggesting dangerous diets.

        But I did explain (in the deleted comment) that my intention wasn’t saying that not eating desserts is bad. Just that suggesting that can be bad. It’s better suggesting doing healthy desserts and getting used to them, rather than avoiding them completely, and I think you’ll fully agree with that.

        Anyway, if you still believe I am a troll, feel free to delete my comments. As you see I am just a daily follower.

  23. Ah, OK – well at least that makes some sense!

  24. MsB says:

    I was a total dessert fiend when I was younger. I didn’t eat the really crappy stuff but I love to bake and would crave a sweet after my lunch or dinner. However, after having a kid and knowing that children’s sugar intake need to be monitored, I slowly removed premade sweets from our pantry. Also, having kids doesn’t allow for a budget with frequent bakery trips nor time to bake. We keep chocolate in the house for the adults to nibble during the week but since I am not a huge chocolate lover, I don’t eat much of it. I never thought I would be okay with having dessert just 1-2 times per week 8 years ago but so far, I find it is not that hard and I am greatful that I learned that I can do it. Now that I am in my late 30s calories don’t burn off as fast as I need them to.
    Our kids do get small portions of “treats” more than 1 time a week–juice popsicles, animal crackers, plain yogurt with maple syrup–as well as a whole family weekend splurge for ice cream or pastry. Sometimes I do find time to bake but then we share with the neighbors or freeze the extras. So no one in our house feels deprived (except for the husband who is a huge chocolate lover but he has to ration the bar I get him at the store or he won’t have any at the end of the week). Also treats are hardly served after a meal except for special dinners as this just sets them up for a pattern/addiction that clearly many adults have a hard time breaking.

  25. MsB says:

    have to add:
    I totally agree with all your recommendations but I need to be better on top of the “little indulgences” like cookie samples at the bakery when I go get bread 😉

  26. donnaandtora says:

    Wow! I really love your blog.

  27. cheska says:

    Thanks for the tips, Darya! I really need to work on #1! I have a terrible sweet tooth and crave sweet endings at each meal, except breakfast. At lunch, i typically eat fruit for dessert but dinner is a different story! Since I love baking, what I do now is make my desserts instead of buying them so I know exactly what is in them. I also agree with #6! I am definitely very picky (and you have to be brutal about this if your office loves to celebrate everything and anything in between, with cakes no less!). 🙂

  28. sarah says:

    I think these are great tips but I’m 16 and I have gained weight 2 years ago but have been on a diet ever since and I really have tried to make the limit once a week but I just end up ruining how I look for the whole week plus feeling terrible and tired .. Any tips ! 🙁 .. I think I could have more treats during the whole week so I don’t feel deprived or what do u think ???? HELP !

  29. mandyr says:

    I’m 16 and I play a lot of sports and am very active but desert is my weakness. I’m young so my metabolism is pretty good but I only eat desert about 2 times a week. I want to be able to satisfy my desert craving and only eat once a week at most but its hard. I have to do everything in my power to stay away from deserts. Is there a way I can train my self to be satisfied with one desert a week at most and not crave it for a while?

    • Darya Rose says:

      I think twice a week is reasonable for an active teenager. Personally I was able to reduce sugar cravings in 2 ways: 1) cut down on sugar – it may seem counterintuitive but eating sugar makes sugar cravings worse. There is often sugar in things that aren’t desserts like salad dressing, teriyaki sauce, yogurt, coffee drinks, etc. I also recommend cutting down on sugar substitutes like in diet soda. 2) Eat more slowly digesting carbohydrates – foods like beans, lentils and intact grains (think rice and oats, not whole wheat bread) can help cut sugar cravings too.

  30. Zelda says:

    Is that right though? There are millions of people in the world who don’t have enough to eat and you’re throwing perfectly good cake in the bin.

    Surely you could find a way to not eat it without wasting it? E.g. give it to someone else to eat. Or you could just eat it- one slice of cake won’t make much difference to your weight. Besides if you feel guilty about it, go for an extra run or have no desserts the next week to compensate.

    • Darya Rose says:

      I think the waste already happened when real food was turned into a bad tasting desserts that aren’t worth the calories they are made from. There are plenty of cakes worth eating, those aren’t the ones I am talking about here.

  31. Kath says:

    i was shown this by a friend with medication related weight issues, and all I can say is if you’re having trouble with your weight and aren’t happy with it then go to a fully qualified dietician. This author sounds like she’s promoting eating disorders. Gym after extra cake – standard form or purging used by anorexics and bulimics. Feeling guilty after making a choice to eat a dounut, slice of cake or half an apple, standard eating disorder. Eating unconsciously and failing to enjoy the food, standard rat race.
    I choose what I eat and I have dessert and complex carbohydrates daily, and it helps my brain function, especially the sugars in fruit and milk and juices that give my brain the only fuel it can use – glucose! I eat all foods, nothing is bad, it’s just moderation and conscious eating…and compensating with exercise or restricting, well the eating disorders world is always looking for more members…

    • Darya Rose says:

      You should poke around the blog a little more. I admitted wrote this particular post years ago before I was as good at explaining that I work out and eat healthy to feel better, because I love my body and don’t hate it. This site is about getting rid of guilt and shame of eating, not promoting it.

  32. Sasha says:

    Hi, I love desserts and on my opinion they should not be avoided so strictly. If somebody has a craving, it is better to eat a little dessert instead of living unhappy and eat more of the items allowed in the current diet. Sometimes we can eat a small dessert for meal. It is far better than living in misery. As a proof I see how all of my friends who eat sweets are skinny and happy. And all of the overweight people I know are always on a diet, never touching anything that may contain even 1 gram of carbs…Staying slim is not achieved through avoiding desserts but through setting a habit to eat a small amount – no matter how healthy or low calorie the dish is.

  33. AJ says:

    Hi, Darya! I’m curious about your advice not to eat dessert alone, an idea that I love in theory but it does not seem to apply to me right now.

    I agree that special occasions are about having company and being friends and/or family. I rarely need or want to eat dessert on such occasions, even the less special ones. I usually find social interaction to be so fulfilling and enjoyable that I could care less about cake, cookies, ice cream, etc. It’s probably been years since I’ve consumed dessert in a social setting.

    However, I do have an occasional (e.g. once every one or two weeks) desire for dessert. Thanks to you, my taste buds have changed quite a bit and now the only kind of dessert that I can enjoy are a couple biscotti or one scone from a specific bakery I love. While I could substitute these items with a piece of fruit or herbal tea, I have been experimenting with simply satisfying the mood for dessert so that I don’t have to spend too much energy on fighting that mood. (I do plan on practicing your suggestion for “urge surfing” one of these days.)

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. Do you usually adhere to the guideline of consuming dessert in social situations? Under what circumstances do you find yourself consuming dessert alone, and how do those experiences feel for you?

  34. Nikki says:

    Nah. I eat dessert every day, or at least every other day. Sometimes it’s just a little extra honey and jam on toast, other days it’s a milkshake and a slice of cake. I watch my calories. I make sure I eat plenty of fruits and veggies and I work out. I’m fit and healthy and life is too dang short to not eat dessert.

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