Fighting your sweet tooth


If you are anything like me, you love chocolate, cake, biscuits, anything sugary and fatty! You know that it is bad for you, yet it is difficult to resist the temptations lurking around the corners. At my work place, cakes and sweets find their way at bigger seminars, at  group meetings, at birthdays, leaving dos, the last Friday of the month, the monthly Student Cake Club… Whatever the reason, the sugar bombs will be accessible on a daily basis, inviting you to try them as were each time the last to ever have a cake experience.

I have often wondered if my brain’s appetite circuit is failing completely as I am remarkably limited in my ability to resist the aforementioned temptations. It is scary as I have all the necessary knowledge to resist, yet it is so hard to turn my back to the moist and tasty chocolate brownie appearing in the Institute’s social room on a regular afternoon.

Right until a good friend and colleague of mine and I joined forces and declared a war on those sugary treats. Here is what we are doing: we stick to eating sugary food once a week only; for every 6/7 sugar-free days, we collect £20 from each other and save those in a “reward” jar towards a trip to Copenhagen. There is also an additional £10 bonus for every 7 bouts of exercise, and our goal is to reach a total of £500 each to cover flights, accommodation and pocket money for the trip. The whole process is rather addictive and incredibly motivating.

The key aspect here is reward and positive feedback. Rather than establishing a punishment system against failure, we reward ourselves for being strong. We sustain a positive feedback through a shared calendar to log our exercises as well as a spreadsheet detailing our savings so far. We have also decided that breaking the rules even once requires all money to be donated to a charity organisation and the Copenhagen trip to be cancelled. Thus, a failure by one will take away a good experience from the other, so rather than only doing it from a “selfish” perspective, we are actually also doing it for each other.

This is just an example of one scheme, and similar approaches can be adopted by others willing to limit their daily consumption of unhealthy food. Find a reward cycle that suits you  and your fellow cake fighters – plan trips to the cinema, spoil each other  with useful little presents or something completely different that does not require you to spend money at all. You will be surprised at how good your brain becomes at resisting the temptations when you are all in it together.

Bottom line: you can make the right dietary choices with the right support network and incentives in place. So find your partner in anti-cake crime, establish your favourite reward scheme, share a calendar or spreadsheet to track your progress and start fighting that sweet tooth now!