How to eat dessert every night and not gain weight

July 1, 2018

We just got back from a two-week vacation to Alaska. We did a land/sea cruise, starting in Fairbanks and ending with a few days in Vancouver. I will be sharing some photos of the stunning scenery we were able to see. But because nobody really wants to see anyone's hundreds of vacation photos, I thought I'd share something maybe lots of you all would be even more interested in.

How I ate dessert every night for two weeks and didn't gain a pound.  

I know that many people have sworn off white sugar and flour. I think that's great. That's how I've lost weight in the past. But, seriously, are you never going to have a piece of birthday cake ever again? Or a scone with lemon curd? Or a homemade cinnamon roll?

Some are really disciplined and can do this. But why can't we have our cake and eat it, too, I ask?

I think I might have found the answer.

A feeling of abundance versus deprivation. And moderation.

On a cruise ship, the food is everywhere. This was our first cruise, and the stories are true. Unlimited amounts of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. An afternoon tea every day. An open-all-day ice cream bar and pizza and burger counter. An all-you-can-eat pastry bar next to the coffee counter.

Yes, there's lots of healthy options, including fruit and veggies, salmon and yogurt. But loads of things I try and keep out of my house -- cakes, pastries, cookies, muffins, breads, pancakes, and more -- are everywhere you look.

I've heard people can gain an average of one pound a day on a cruise, and I can see why. 

I felt like I ate a lot, and ate a lot of "forbidden foods," including the dessert every night, sometimes a pastry in the morning, and many days, a large salted caramel latte. 

Crumpets for breakfast at The Fairmont Empress in Victoria. Can't believe I've never had a crumpet before -- delicious! I think they taste like a cross between an English muffin and a pancake.

Beautiful presentation. Though small, this is utterly satisfying. 
Afternoon tea on the cruise ship. We met some lovely people, including three Mississipian ladies who were as sweet as pie!
And we really didn't get a lot of exercise. We were either on a boat, a train, a bus, or a ferry. Some walking but less than what I do at home on my treadmill.

Mt. Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley), the highest mountain in North America, at over
20,310 feet. We got a wonderful view. We were told that 2/3s of the time it is covered in clouds.
Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. I have more pics to share. It was beautiful.
So how did I maintain my weight?

I think I felt such a sense of abundance around me that I was able to relax and enjoy everything in small bites and in moderation. At home, I never have any treats in the pantry or refrigerator unless I'm having guests over, and think I probably feel deprived all the time. Because when I do get a dessert, it's like "last copter out of 'nam!" Hurry up and eat, and eat all you can because it's my last/only opportunity to eat something sweet before I have to deprive myself again. Kind of sad, really.

I end up munching on too many "healthy" snacks, such as almonds, and probably consume just as many or more calories as I would if I'd just allowed myself what I really want, such as a little bit of chocolate or a small piece of pie.

But with all the desserts around me on this vacation, I could relax and tell myself, they'll be here in the morning, and tomorrow night and the next day. I can have a dessert whenever I want. There's no need to squirrel it all away. As if I'm preparing for a famine. Or the apocalypse!

So I was actually able to eat a small dessert without finishing it. As in, take a few bites, and push the plate away. I knew there would be a pastry the next morning. And yes, I was eating sensibly the rest of the time, small servings of meat, simply prepared, without a lot of breading or gravy, vegetables, and lots of water. I only ate one roll from the bread basket all week. If I had really craved the bread, I probably wouldn't have had the dessert.

Although I didn't go to the ice cream or pizza counter (no need! I was full!), we did go to afternoon tea twice, and enjoyed scones and cookies and little sandwiches. Two hours before dinner!

So I've been thinking a lot of about the idea of deprivation versus abundance. 

If I were to keep muffins and desserts and other such treats in the house on a regular basis, so that I knew they were always there, and never off limits, would I begin to relax and see these foods in a more healthy way? I.e., a normal, acceptable part of a balanced diet? Would I be less likely to binge if I knew I could have a scone or a (small) brownie every day? Would these foods start to lose their power over me? 

Could I begin to eat more sensibly, without bingeing and without deprivation?

{Someone reminded me that this is actually the theory behind the book French Women Don't Get Fat, which I read some time ago.}

And I've been testing this new theory at home. This last week, I went to a tea room with friends where I had pumpkin bread and dessert. My husband and I split a mini cherry pie from the local farmer's market. I've had a few crumpets with strawberry jam. Otherwise, I've been eating lean protein and veggies and salads. And I've lost two pounds. 

We got to see glaciers up close.
Reindeer. They serve reindeer sausage up there!

Does this make sense?

I'll keep you posted if my theory holds up long-term.


  1. Yes! I am diabetic and it's all about portion control. I never deprive myself, but if I want dessert, it's a small piece of something and part of my daily carb count. I see so many people afraid to eat a bite of cake, yet like you said, snack all day on healthy snacks with a lot of calories.

  2. I am probably NOT the best person to comment on this because I do not crave sweets; however, I love my carbs (especially bread and pasta) which turn into sugar in your bodies. Bottom line -- I have always eaten whatever I wanted whenever I wanted but always in moderation, which is just the way my system works. I feel full much sooner than most people. I never finish what's on my plate in an American restaurant. The portions are just too enormous -- enough for two people -- and I never feel guilty about leaving food on my plate.

    You can exercise your brains out and still gain weight if you don't watch those calories, and supposedly "low fat" foods are loaded with them.

    Excellent advice, Deborah.

    Cheers, M-T

  3. Those afternoon teas sounds delicious, one of my favourite pastimes. I am a fan of crumpets too, we use a toasting fork and toast them over the stove. Loved seeing the reindeer.

  4. What a lovely trip; I adore Alaska, one of my favorite states and so glad you were able to see Denali. I've never gained weight on a cruise, probably because I've never eaten myself sick simply because food was available.

  5. I love this post! The pictures are beautiful, especially of the food. I think you've found a treasure of wisdom about eating. Thank you!

  6. Yes, this makes sense to me! I have a weakness for sweets, but have found that when they're readily available or in abundance, I actually lose my appetite for them after a while.

    I've never been on a cruise, but may have to try it one day just to get the afternoon tea experience. HA!

  7. Oh, Deborah, I could have written this post exactly. I have always and forever used moderation as my "diet tool." And, it has worked well. I'm not about depriving myself of anything but I can easily eat a few bites and push the rest away and I'm happy. And, I drink water, water and more water. It is key! And, we have been on this exact same cruise/land tour and it was one of our most favorite trips ever. We went on Celebrity, lovely, lovely but so, so many people. OUr next cruise was to Canada and we went on Holland American as it has less than half as many folks as a Celebrity cruise and we liked that a lot more. Happy 4th to you!

  8. I think you are definitely on to something here. I just got my mom's china back from my sister and the dinner plates are about 2/3 the size of our dinner plates today. "Moderation in all things" is a good slogan.

  9. I agree that portion control is key. I bake regularly for my husband so there are always squares or muffins or cookies around. I find that I have one or two when they are fresh from the oven and then I am quite able to ignore them. Often I'll ask my husband for one or two bites of his dessert and he's willing to share.
    Love that you enjoyed Butchart Gardens and the Fairmont Empress.

  10. Dearest Deborah,
    So you did stay at the Fairmont Empress! That no doubt was a wonderful experience.
    We only managed to stay at two of the Château hotels, in Québec City and in Ottawa.
    As for sweets, in 2007 when I had high blood sugar levels I did cut the sugar out of my diet but several months ago, actually around Pieter's birthday, I did eat the entire 'royal' portion of a lovely homemade birthday cake for Pieter. The next weekend I again finished the entire desert at Ristorante da Maria where we ate a 5-course meal. BUT on May 17, I had to live through the pain of a gout attack. My left foot was so swollen and also before I had strange pain in my right hand's thumb. Turns out that sweets do trigger such a gout attack and it is very bad for your kidneys to build up that amount of uric acid in the body. Strange how our bodies change certain things into something bad and we all react differently. So for me, no more sweets and no more alcohol, not even the one glass I occasionally enjoyed with friends.
    Don't want to go there again as the pain was awful and that without being able to take any painkillers due to my CKD.
    Love to see the pictures though and only can admire the artful as semblance of such treats!
    No doubt I will continue making them for my loved ones, still enjoy doing that.
    When we were on our short 5-night cruise, we had ordered low sodium meals but as it turned out, that was not being honored and it makes it almost impossible for both of us to ever go on a cruise or for staying some place where this cannot be controlled. Sad but so far it is the only option for living healthy. Fresh fruits are my treats and dried, unsalted nuts of course.
    Life still is good!
    Sending you hugs,

  11. Sounds like a wonderful trip and I look forward to seeing more of the to the deprivation and abundance connection I think you are on to something! Share more please!

  12. Deborah, I think perhaps Dolly Parton used this same thinking; deprivation versus abundance, and I think it worked for her. I'll be honest, I love food. I really enjoy food and I think I'm a pretty good cook. However, since I had my gallbladder removed last summer, my body has changed and I'm having a hard time keeping my weight where I want it. My surgeon never warned me about this. I had to find this out on my own. When I searched the Internet about it just recently, I discovered that my liver has to work harder to break down fats and so on without the gallbladder. I also discovered that certain foods can cause me stomach pain now. I am determined not to over eat and I try not to eat so much sugar and fatty foods which aren't good for you anyway. When I made my hubby his cinnamon rolls for Father's Day, I didn't eat one. He ate them all by himself. He thinks I have a lot of will power. ;-) But I have to do what is right for me so I don't get sick. I'll be stopping by again to see how you're getting along. And I'm glad you enjoyed the cruise. I can't travel so I'm happy for those who can.

  13. What a wonderful trip you took and those desserts look so yummy. Yes if you eat in moderation and like you did a little bit at a time it's ok and you get to taste the wonderful sweets. I enjoyed looking at the photos your trip and I love those mountains. :)

  14. Please do explore this subject thoroughly and share with us, and next write a book on it! Taking the forbidden out of desserts, along with savoring tiny bites the way you did and combining it with healthy choices at the meal, might just be a wise way of eating.

    I've never been on a cruise but enjoyed reading about yours, especially from this perspective. You really sound as if the trip was very special in every way. And I love seeing travel pictures so please post more. I'm so curious about Vancouver after seeing pictures from there by blog friends who live there so would love to see more of this magical place.

  15. That's interesting! I hope that you've found the secret. It sounds plausible. I laughed out loud reading "last copter out of 'Nam."

  16. I'm glad that you've found what works for you, Deborah. I do the same thing, as I always have desserts stashed away in the freezer that I've made. I've learned how to eat them with my salad at lunch time, and other little tricks along the way. Life is too short to not have some treats to indulge in. I'm so glad that you got to have tea at The Empress. We chose Butchart Gardens, as we only had a short time on land. Happy 4th to you!

  17. You're so much better than I am or will be when I go, haha.

    SO - you must've done Princess Cruises - lol - this will be our 10th cruise with them. Is cruising the best thing ever or what?????????????????

    I mentioned Empress in your last post - jury still out on it. You splurged, haha - just don't know if my hubs wants to. Ya know?


  18. It does make a lot of sense. I think it depends on what one's emotional relationship to food IS. My hubby is a food addict, so the more food is around, the more he eats. But I have a different relationship with food, one more like yours. I can leave it on the counter, or throw it in the trash. But if I don't have ANYTHING fun around to eat, I feel sad and deprived. And we know what that leads to! Your descriptions are hilarious :)

    Not sure, but I think the thing the English call a crumpet is what we call an English muffin.

  19. Deborah, sounds sensible. Here is my take on sugar, (Hope you don't mind the link, but it's easier than writing an extremely long comment!) Been doing it for years now. It's absolutely painless, and I recommend it! And I'd like to add that 16/8 intermittent fasting, something I've been doing for several months now and will continue for the rest of my life, is also absolutely painless. Many functional medicine MDs have used it with diabetic patients and completely reversed the disease. Anyway … just thought that post (I also did one about intermittent fasting) would be of interest to you. Can't wait to see more posts about your trip!

  20. Moderation is it. We tend to desire the forbidden all the more, don't we? ;)
    I was so happy to see you over at Fabby's just now, Deborah. As you may recall, I tried instagram, but it was just too much for me. Hope to stay in touch.
    Much love.

  21. I do love a cruise, and part of that is the food!!! So glad you enjoyed yours...and glad you didn't gain the normal "cruise weight." Sadly I think I am addicted to sugar!!! I "try" to keep sweet snacks out of our house but my husband is a sweet-aholic and always has junk around. I have lost about 7 lbs. though since April due to LOTS of exercising at the gym, walking, and sweating! So easy to put on, but SOOOOO hard to take off. Hope your plan continues to work. For me it wouldn't because when the sugar is around, I devour it!!!

  22. I love crumpets!! I would love to lose weight having a few of them, here and there. I do think that you have accurately assessed the dessert-and-weight-loss equation. Could it be that we have been looking at things incorrectly? I suspect so, and so am borrowing your new abundance attitude. Thanks for that.

  23. I've always heard that the desserts on a cruise are amazing...and plentiful! I guess we all have to find some balance in our diet and exercise. I do better when I don't snack as much...but snacking gives me a boost. So I have to be careful over doing it with the nuts I eat for snacks. I can't eat sugar. I am allergic to it and have a bad threatening. So I don't have those choices. I even have to be careful about how much fruit I eat at one time. And I can't have any juice either.'s weird, I know and sometimes I feel sorry for myself! lol I don't know what I would weigh if I COULD eat sugar. More...I'm sure! Take care of yourself and stay healthy...that's the smart choice! Hugs!

  24. Hi Deborah ~ I think it makes perfect sense!
    I have found in the past that when I have just a little and know that I can enjoy it when ever I like, that I really don't want it on a daily basis.
    Dark chocolate seems to satisfy my sweet cravings and it only takes a tiny piece to do the job.

    Your photos are stunning! I look forward to seeing more of your trip.
    My husband and I have talked of going to Alaska for our 40th wedding anniversary this year.

    Have a glorious day ~

  25. This is how my older family members lived. There was always a "treat" to put out with coffee or tea if someone visited and for a breakfast or afternoon break, but food was never important. People ate to live, not live to eat. They ate small portions, fresh and local as much as possible, as that used to be the norm and were active people. Almost every woman in my small mill town were avid sweepers and cleaners because of the soot from the mill. Everyone walked "downtown" to the grocery store, hardware store, shoe store, lumberyard, etc. Very few people had cars or those that did, did not use them for small errands. I remember women every evening sitting on their porches, visiting back and forth. Some worked on embroidery, crochet, knitting or mending while they talked. I truly miss that life!


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