We believe that eating dessert, and for many dieters (ourselves included) eating a reasonable portion of dessert every day, is an important part of lifetime weight loss and maintenance. When dieters first come to see us, we always ask them to describe a really good eating day and then a really bad eating day. The majority of them describe a good eating day as one that includes no desserts, and a bad eating day as one that includes way too many. The reason for this is because all-or-nothing (meaning, too much dessert or none at all) is really two sides of the same coin; cutting a food out entirely almost always leads to eventually eating way too much of it. While it’s true that eating no dessert, or being too restrictive in other ways, may help dieters lose weight, being overly restrictive just doesn’t work long term because it’s impossible to stick to forever. And once dieters start allowing themselves to eat the foods they were previously forbidding, they go overboard and gain weight.
Here are our Top Five Reasons to Eat a Reasonable Amount of Dessert Every Day:
- This is a new lifestyle, not a diet. Almost every dieter we’ve worked with has had previous experiences of losing and then regaining weight. Why is that? For many it’s because they made changes in order to lose that they weren’t able to keep up with, and once they reverted back to old ways of eating, the weight came back on. We work hard with dieters to make changes that, as far as we can tell, are reasonable and maintainable, and we try to help them get away from thinking about dieting as something that is done short-term. If dieters like dessert, they know somewhere in the back of their minds they’ll eat it again and if they try to cut it out entirely, all that is doing is reinforcing the idea that this is something they’ll do short-term. Developing a long-term, lifestyle mentality is critical for weight maintenance, and dessert is an important part of that.
- If you’re going to eat it, you should enjoy it! As we’ve said previously, if dieters really like dessert, even if they’re trying to cut it out entirely, at some point they end up eating it again. If they’re constantly telling themselves, “I shouldn’t be eating this,” or “This is bad,” they’re going to feel guilty about what they’re eating, and guilt really takes away from the enjoyment of food. Dessert is a pleasure in life, and it should be experienced as such. When dieters learn to eat dessert in a controlled and on-track way, they often find they end up enjoying it so much more because they it allows them to savor it (instead of eating it way too fast, trying not to notice how much they’re eating), and they get to feel good about it before, during, and after.
- It’s important not to think that eating dessert means you’re off track. Off-track decisions beget off-track decisions, and when dieters believe that they shouldn’t ever really eat dessert and then end up having some, it signals to them that they’re off track and makes it very easy for them to continue eating in an off track way the rest of the day (or week). This is a very vulnerable position to be in long-term because there is no guarantee that dieters will be able to recover from bad days right away, and they can easily lead to weight gain. When dieters really know that eating a reasonable portion of dessert is reasonable, it helps them eat it and continue to have a good eating day.
- When desserts are forbidden, getting off track will always be appealing. When we work with dieters who keep getting off track, we sometimes ask them, “What’s so great about being off track?” They often respond with something along the lines of, “It’s just so great to get to eat all the foods I want to.” It’s a real problem when dieters think that there are foods that they can eat when they’re off track that they can’t also eat when they’re on track – and usually these are foods they really like – because then, getting off track will always be tempting. We work with dieters to build the mindset that there is absolutely no food they can eat when they’re off track that they can’t also eat when they’re on track. It’s true that they might have to eat less of it, or eat it less often, but they 100% can have it. And, as we’ve said before, when they have it in an on-track way, they often end up enjoying it more because there’s no guilt and they feel in control.
- Eating dessert every day allows for moderation. Many of the clients we’ve worked with tell us that they just can’t be moderate around dessert. When they end up eating it, they eat way too much (i.e. being all-or-nothing). This happens to many dieters because when they eat dessert, they have the thought, “I shouldn’t be eating this,” and then they have the thought, “Since I don’t know when I’m going to allow myself to have this again, I better get as much of it as I can right now,” and a real sense of urgency kicks in. When dieters prove to themselves that they will let themselves have a reasonable amount every single day, it really helps strip away this urgency. When they eat dessert, they are able to tell themselves, “I don’t need to go overboard today because I can have more tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, etc.”
Cutting dessert out entirely may work for weight loss, but it almost certainly won’t work for weight maintenance, and so for these reasons (and more!) we think it’s critical for dieters to be eating dessert regularly and reasonably.