“You want to join me in cutting out sweets for a month?” My wife’s offer was simple enough, without any pressure or guilt added. I’m sure she expected me to decline. While this kind of exercise is common for her, I have never joined in the fun. Mostly because it doesn’t sound like much fun. But this time I said yes, not only to help my wife but also to help my waistline. For the first time in my life, some of my pants are more snug than I prefer. But even beyond the physical need, I sensed that a season of saying no to sweets would be good for my soul.
Just over two weeks into it, here are three things I have discovered.
- Saying no to sweets is not natural. Literally one day after we started our exercise I helped myself to some delicious homemade lemon dessert at the staff lunch. I was savoring the first bite when Kristin exclaimed, “What are you doing?!” For a moment I was truly confused. Did I say something rude? Sit in someone else’s chair? Suddenly I saw the spoon in my hand and remembered. What amazed me is not so much that I had ignored our no-sweets plan, but that it hadn’t even crossed my mind as I dished up and began to eat. I am not accustomed to abstaining from sweets, especially lemony desserts!
- Sweets are maddeningly ubiquitous. Every time I turn around, there is some treat saying, “Hi there.” Peanut M&Ms at the checkout counter. Chocolate hazelnut milkshakes on the Burgerville sign. The package of gourmet caramels from our neighbors after their recent trip. The lemon meringue pie in the church fridge. The plate of cookies left on my desk. The candy dish in the office. I never realized how impossible it is to get away from sweets.
- Sometimes no needs to last all day. I love leading our work days here at the church, but I had forgotten about the wonderful donuts we enjoy before getting busy. But saying no at the start was easy. The hard part was after everyone was gone. I worked in my office for several more hours while two full boxes of donuts sat on the foyer counter, including apple fritters and berry filled!
This seemingly simple exercise has been very revealing, almost embarrassingly so. I can refrain from pie one moment, but if I load up a piece of toast with enough butter and jam, doesn’t it amount to the same thing? Managing cravings is no picnic, and that’s really the main thing I’m learning. I agreed to this plan because I instinctively knew the discipline would be good for my soul. Discipline gained in one area helps our discipline in every area.