Breaking the Habit of Dessert

December 21, 2011 in Categories: , , , , by

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It wasn’t that long ago that I was in the habit of having a (usually small, sometimes huge) sweet snack in the evenings after the girls were asleep.  This snack was typically consumed in front of the television, shared with my husband.  A bar of milk chocolate, a couple of cookies, or a bowl of ice cream was typical.  I looked forward to this sweet indulgence, craved it, felt deprived if for some reason I didn’t have it.  I was addicted. 

Even after using only paleo ingredients for this dessert, this evening treat was still part of a vicious cycle.  Actually, it was part of several vicious cycles.  I was eating to keep myself awake.  The sugar in the evening was decreasing my sleep quality so I was more tired the next day.  Since I was tired, I was drinking more coffee and craving more sugar during the day.  The sugar intake was also decreasing my leptin and insulin sensitivity, so I was storing more fat and stimulating my appetite.  And the sugar so close to bed was increasing growth hormone production, which blocks weight loss.  Eating before bed is bad.  Eating sweets in the evening is bad.  Eating so much sugar at any time of day is bad.  It had to stop.

So, how did I break the cycle of eating dessert in the evenings?  There was an adjustment period that lasted about 2 weeks.  I had to break both the biochemical addiction to sugar and the emotional dependence on it.  During this time, I relied heavily on sheer willpower (a.k.a. discipline).  But I had other tricks that helped.  Eating low carbohydrate all day (around 30g per day) helped dramatically because it helped reduce my overall sugar cravings more quickly.  Also eating lots of good fats kept me satiated.  Having something that wasn’t too sweet right after supper (instead of later in the evening) helped, typically half a piece of fruit or a couple of squares of 85% dark chocolate.  Going to bed before I got too hungry was really important too.  After the two week adjustment period, I started to crave that sweet snack less and less.  One night, after the physical adjustment period was over, but before the emotional addiction was really gone, I gave into temptation and ate a large amount of chocolate before bed.  I had a horrible stomach ache that kept me awake half the night and woke up with a migraine.  Now, it’s three months later.  I rarely feel like a sweet evening treat, and if I do, remembering that headache keeps me clean.  I think a large part of how good I feel eating paleo is due to this change in my lifestyle.

It’s important to be aware of your habits and your emotions surrounding food.  And changing bad habits is hard work (no matter what those bad habits are).  But it’s worth it.  For most people, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional sweet treat, especially during the holidays when there seems to be so much temptation around us.  But, it is important to train your body not to expect something sweet every day.  High sugar intake is the cause of many diseases, from diabetes to heart disease, so it’s important to find a way to live your life with much less of it.


great tips. as I understand there is no way to escape from the first couple of weeks of discipline. some people may tolerate a little bit of sweet but people like me should go cold turkey i guess. sugar= cocaine for us:)

Thanks for posting. I’m working hard on breaking this habit! I was thinking of making one dessert each week during my upcoming paleo challenge.

Great post! I find that if I indulge at any time of the day, I crave sugar for at least the next 2 days..but the evening is always the hardest time for me. I find that having a cup of herbal tea after supper usually curbs this craving best for me.

I had this same habit and kept trying to find acceptable substitutes, but since I’m 24 days into my Whole30 I haven’t had any sweets and I now know that I am capable of living without that sweet treat. I’m almost afraid to try anything sweet now for fear of going back where I was !!

Remember that craving chocolate can be a sign of magnesium deficiency. Talk to your doc about the right Calcium to Magnesium supplement, either 1:1 or 1:2 generally. But whenever I crave sugar or most particularly chocolate, then I take that supplement and usually it goes away within 15 minutes. Also, I sometimes use a lemonade from the master cleanse. 2TBS fresh lemon juice, 2 TBS Grade B maple syrup (grade B is very important because it has more alkalyzing minerals), and 1/8 tsp of cayenne in 8 oz of water (also very important because straight lemon juice will harm your stomach lining.) It works without the cayenne if you don’t have it, but cayenne is very cleansing, so a very good idea to include. I have always been shocked that the maple syrup does not react like sugar when combined in this way. Because it is not just a question of glycemic index and blood sugar, but also a question of acidity and body alkalynity. I am not a doc, but this is what has worked for me. Happy balancing!

I found a couple (or more) slices of bacon before bed really helped me stop craving the evening sweets. It still felt like an indulgence but didn’t leave me with any of the sugar/caffeine sleep disturbances. My husband thought I was crazy cooking bacon at 10:00 at night but then of course he wanted some. 😉

Now, this is one I can try! My sugar craving is usually around 8 – 8:30ish. A slice of bacon instead, would probably hit the spot! Thanks!

Thank you for this post! My fiancée and I were doing great until about a month ago when one of us would make treats and then we would pretty much eat a whole batch in a day. I know i need to stop and switch up my routine, I feel the weight coming back on my belly and the other symptoms you mentioned. We did also quit smoking (again) around that time so I didn’t want to press the issue with my fiancee too much, id rather us gain a little weight and stay off cigarettes.

I know that i have to have strong will power regardless of what he does, or this will never work. He can make treats all he wants, i don’t have to eat them. Him not working out isn’t a reason for me not to work out. It is difficult.

Thank you for also at least touching on some of the emotional aspects of eating. I have found this to be especially true recently as my stress level has gone up and i had been fairly disciplined but once the stress hit i was right back to my bad emotional eating habits. Fast food by myself, hiding evidence of it, eating too many treats, eating too much in general. Im starting to get it back but it’s not easy.

I need to scroll thru your archives tp see if you have any other posts about emotional eating and how to break the cycle.

Thanks for all you do!

I can totally relate! I actually made it a rule for myself to not eat anything after 8pm after dinner so if I do have a sweet treat, it’s not so close to my bedtime. I tend to go to bed around 10-11pm so I’m not so hungry when I go to sleep. It really helped!

I have a really bad sugar addiction. I have to keep chocolate in my house because of my work. I feel like I am as addicted to sugar as a person is to any other drug. After reading the posts and articles I think I am going to have to completely give up sweet treats altogether…once I have one I will keep eating until there is nothing left or I feel sick. It’s been dragging me down for years now, the physical side effects of pain in my stomach, bloating, wind, nausea and hangover like symptoms are all forgotten once my cravings start. It’s always by watching TV, should that go for first few weeks to make things easier? Any ideas or suggestions gratefully accepted…wish me luck

In my experience, when I eliminated all sugars and nuts (quick snacks) I was also freed of the cravings. They disappeared after a couple of days. It was liberating, to say the least, not to think about snacking all the time. After three months I introduced berries as my only sweet and found I was treating them as food, not a treat — I wasn’t craving them, but enjoyed them when I had them. As soon as I introduced 85% chocolate, banana and nuts again, after another month, the cravings returned. Though, I should say, not as intensely. I think we all have different tolerance to sugar — I don’t eat it or cook with it in any form but fruit and dark chocolate and yet I find that this is what I crave in moments when I’m not in emotional balance.

good post! I’ve been paleo for two and a half years, but I still get a craving for sweet things, esp. at night. This was a good reminder to me, I have slipped back into more of these nibbles later at night. My doc once told me that having a half of an avocado, or other really healthy fat at night keeps your blood sugar level while you are sleeping, and it really does make me feel better, Also taking that avocado and making it into guacamole with some seasonings, and then dipping carrots into it (carrots are sweet, but not too sweet! helps. If I feel especially naughty, I have learned to drink peppermint or chamomile tea. After I drink that, I feel refreshed and no longer want the sweets.

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