Abstinence Makes the Taste Grow Stronger

ImageI have been unable to find scientific proof for this – but I know this to be true.  Perhaps I just need to go back to school and choose the degree that would allow me to do the research and write the dissertation with the above title……Nutritional psychology?  Physiological Psychology?  Phys Psy – I kind of like that.  So, that’s it! I will go back to school and do all of that work to prove something that really is innately sensible and I know from experience….. Naaaah.  I’ll just take a risk and tell you about it.

This is me before giving up chocolate for Lent (40 days, no chocolate… you heard me right): Gimme some chocolate, gotta have chocolate,
I’m sleepy – I need chocolate
I’m cranky – I need chocolate
I had a bad day – I need, I DESERVE chocolate
I’m happy – I need chocolate

This is me after giving up chocolate for Lent and presuming that I was going to eat every piece of chocolate in sight including all of my son’s Easter basket at the end of the period of deprivation:
Wow, that is incredibly sweet.
I mean really, that is much too sweet.
That’s enough, thank you.

So in my sample size of one, with no control group, I found that abstinence does indeed make the taste grow stronger.  Whew!  I just saved myself lots of time and money, didn’t I?  There will be arguments about the validity of the results of this study from some of you I’m sure, and I have to admit that after the first Lent that I gave up chocolate (yes, I did it more than once, and being an over-achiever you will see that it gets even worse) I did find my desire for milk chocolate and other excessively sweet candy snuck back into my life and grew.  And therein lies the
real basis for my dissertation.  It is the sneaking in that gets me.  It is not the getting out that holds psychological interest, but the getting in.  How does that desire for sweets eke back into my life?

One teaspoon at a time baby.

We like food to give us a big Ka-Pow!  That’s what all the ads promise… mouth-watering, delicious, knock your socks off taste.  The hottest, the sweetest, the saltiest, the creamiest, etc.  So we look for the ka-pow and if your cinnamon toast ain’t got enough ka-pow anymore you can just add some more cinnamon sugar… Ka-Pow!  Eliminating that particular ka-pow for awhile helps you savor the flavor again.  Notice the sweetness.  It’s enough.  Notice the other flavors.

Try no cinnamon sugar/jelly on your toast, or no sugar in your coffee tomorrow morning with the intention of tasting the other flavors involved.  Imagine the positive effects of that toast… nourishment.  Taste the different flavors.  Imagine the positive effects of that coffee…. energy.  Taste the new flavor.  It’s a brand new taste sensation!  Ka-Pow!

Back to my research with my sample size of one.  After giving up chocolate and then all sweets (even jelly on toast) for five or 6 Lents in a row, I have lost my taste for milk chocolate and pure sugar candy like twizzlers, smarties, and other crap, I mean sweets, like that.  And here comes the piece de resistance that allows me to resist even doughnuts (which I used to LOVE).  Now that I eat better, I feel BAD quickly when I eat bad food.  I look for the effects and notice them.  I have made an indelible connection between what I eat and how I feel.  It’s much easier to ignore the doughnut when I prefer to feel good.

So how does this work with the Baby Steps Little Sis and I are always talking about?  Well, for me this was a 5 or 6 year process that got a little stronger each time I did it.  That was a larger and larger portion of each year when I ate less sugar.  That’s progress.

You don’t need Lent to make this work.  Just choose an amount of time that you will go without or with less sugar and do it with the knowledge that you can have your sugar back again.  You just might find that you don’t want the sugar as much as you used to.

For other tips on fighting sugar cravings check out this article from WebMD – it’s full of great ideas to bust a sugar addiction… I mean desire for sugar.

11 responses

  1. My N of 1 studies say the same thing. I had a piece of, admittedly low quality, dark chocolate the other day and I had to take the wrapper back out of my pocket to inspect it. I was SURE it was milk chocolate because of the sweetness. Nope, dark chocolate. Totally different and wow does my food taste better.

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  3. I can relate to this on so many levels. I’ve given up refined sugar before, only to let it creep back in. I once stopped eating refined sugar (nothing else) an lost 15 pounds. I don’t regret the times I’ve given it up (especially chocolate), but the times I let it back into my life. Great blog!

    • I hear you. I’ve noticed that since Easter when I received some lovely chocolate gifts my sweet-o-meter has been swinging pretty wide. And I’ve been craving it, which I wasn’t before then. Very frustrating. I was all set to have an awesome strawberry season and now I have to recalibrate my taste buds again to get ready for it. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

    • Glad you liked the blog. It is a difficult and on-going battle, isn’t it? Work doesn’t help. I am a nurse and lovely, thoughtful patients often bake something to say thank you. And then there are the colleagues who share leftovers in the employee lounge – plates of candy and cookies and doughnuts. Egad!

      • Food is everywhere! I once had a co-worker with a “bottomless” candy bowl, directly in my daily path. I would mindlessly help myself over and over again. It was so tempting and tasty…and fattening. Gifts of food are powerful as well. Giving tasty baked goods was once a big deal when sugar was in such short supply. A pie or cake once a year. Now we can access it daily.

        I’m close to my weight goal now and have worked hard this past year to get there. It’s a choice I face daily.

        Best of luck to you. I’m so glad I found your blog.

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