Can you go a year without candy? Specifically, can you quit your favorite candies, cookies, cakes, ice cream, pastries and any sugar-based desserts for 365 days running? Not only that, but can you chronicle your candy-curbing adventures publicly, doing so with panache, humor and even literary aplomb?
That's exactly what talented journalist Dana Kennedy is now doing on her entertaining, insightful, healthily addictive A Year Without Candy Blog, which she began on Feb. 28.
Now one month into her sugar-squashing mission, Dana -- who contributes to AOL News, People Magazine, TIME and other outlets – began her blog announcing her "choice to abstain from" her "addiction of choice – candy, ice cream, cakes and all manner of sweet treats – for at least a year." A few days later, she also humorously announced her candy-cutting mission on the Huffington Post blog, admitting being "as hooked on cheap and delicious American candy like Hershey bars, Junior Mints and candy corn (bite it, dessert snobs) as I am on creme brulee, moelleux au chocolat and tarte tatin."If, like most people, you can't resist the urge to indulge in sweets (either often or periodically), I urge you to follow A Year Without Candy Blog, where the former correspondent for ABC News, Fox News and MSNBC offers a compelling mix of confessional moments (like the time she was Dreaming of Red Twizzlers and Relapses or when chocolate lured her on Wicked Wednesday); tangible accomplishments (such as when she survived three weeks without candies); and scary motivational tidbits (such as Dr. Nancy Appleton’s eye-opening list of 146 ways that Sugar Can Kill You).
However, Dana is at her best when she dishes out original, self-mocking observations or quirky musings that illustrate her fun-loving nature, such as when she asked on Day One: "Is there a less-sexy addiction than being a sugar freak? Or a more infantile one? Doubtful.
"Have you ever seen a film noir with the possibly-murderous icy blonde reclining on a sofa and waiting for the next sucker to lure into her evil web – while pulling on a Twix bar?
"Or have you ever gone a hot date with a cool guy and after dinner, leaned back seductively, locked eyes with him, reached into your purse and said, `Do you mind if I… toss down a few Gummi bears?' How wholesome. How very not treacherous femme fatale."
The articulate, anti-candy crusader graciously took time to share how her blog has been an ally in mission to kick candy.
Connie: Dana, what made you decide to quit candy and to announce publicly, on a blog?
Dana: The idea to stop eating candy and blog about it came to me like a bolt out of the blue the night of my birthday on February 27. It's almost as if a power greater than me to stay on the straight and narrow was to go public with this.
I've tried to quit candies and sweets so many times before – always beginning with the greatest of intentions – and then I’d last anywhere from 4 days to 2 weeks, but I’d always find some reason to go back to it. I would then lose my motivation, and that'd be the end of it. And it set up the cycle of being discouraged that I couldn’t get the monkey off my back.
Connie: Well, you certainly came up with a clever way of holding yourself “accountable,” to use life-coaching parlance.
Dana: Well, what motivates me more than anything is the idea of a challenge, and the blog is a public challenge to myself. The blog is like my conscience. People could tell me all day long how bad candy is for me, what emotional effects it has on me and what [nutrient-poor] ingredients are in it, but what gives me more motivation is having to be held accountable to somebody or something -- in this case, the blog.
Unwittingly, I did the perfect thing for my personality, which is to issue a public challenge to myself. Although I know that if I fall off the wagon tomorrow and close my blog, I'm sure the world would go on, but in my mind, I would have failed with this personal challenge. The blog is really me saying to the public and to myself -- this is what I'm going to do -- please support me.
Connie: Has your blog led to any unexpected reactions?
Dana: Yes. What’s been really surprising is the number of people, who have reacted positively to the blog and who wrote to say that they were inspired and that they’ve [been helped by] things they’ve learned on the blog. I’m really surprised that people like it.
Connie: I’m not surprised. It’s a fabulous, fascinating blog. Dana, again, let me congratulate you for surviving a month without candies. That’s a major accomplishment. How were you able to pull it off?
Dana: Support has helped me keep going -- which is the name of the game if you're trying to give up any kind of addiction.
Connie: Now that you’ve gone a month being candy-free, how have things changed for you?
Dana: Lots of things have changed. First off, I’ve been helped by lots of people [whom I’ve connected with] because of the blog, including you. I've received a lot of support that I didn't expect to get. It’s a completely different experience [to quit sugar while writing a blog] than to kick sweets by yourself. If you're an alcoholic, you can go to AA every night and be with people who have your issues all the time, and it's taken seriously. But if you say, “I wish I could have some fudge,” [many] people who don't understand look at you [with confusion].
Connie: How else do you feel differently now that you’re not eating sweets?
Dana: I feel lighter – and not just weight-wise – although I’ve lost 5 pounds so far. I feel happier. And I feel like people are easier to get along with. I feel like I’m starting to conquer my candy addiction – and that makes me feel lighter.
Connie: That’s awesome, Dana. Keeping your blog can be eye-opening to people, who think they’re alone. Many people don’t realize that you can get addicted to sweets.
Dana: Yes, most people don’t talk about having a candy addiction. [Initially,] I didn’t think that many people could relate.Connie: So, now you’re discovering that people around the world identify with you?
Dana: Yes, I’m really surprised at how alike we are. Most of the time I’ve been the only one I know who's a candy addict.
Connie: What was a typical day before you chose to cut out candies?
Dana: On a typical day, I’d eat a candy bar like a Bounty or Mars bar for lunch, another candy bar after dinner and/or a couple of packages of Haribo. Maybe I’d also have a scoop of ice cream from a delicious French ice cream shop or dessert whenever possible.
Connie: Some people may think that isn’t really an addiction.
Dana: True, but I felt addicted. It weighed heavily [on me]. I was a candyaholic. Just like there are different kinds of alcoholics such as the skid row alcoholic or the binge alcoholic, [there are different kinds of sugar addicts]. If I were going to compare myself to an alcoholic, I was like someone, who has to have two to three glasses of wine every day. But it’s up to you whether or not you [consider] yourself an alcoholic or sugar addict. Yes, I never went on a binge or went off to eat candies in secret. This is not a story of me in a closet chowing down on cookies. I’m just somebody who likes candy too much. It sounds like nothing.
But I always had sweets every day—even if not in huge quantities. The fact that I wanted candy or sweets every day is not good. There was never a day that went by that I didn’t have candy bar. And I felt bad about having it [because] I know that candy’s not good. You don’t have to be a binger or classic overeater to have issues with a substance. If I could have a candy bar only once or twice a week, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Connie: Dana, I’m sure your readers will want to know, as I do: Why do you often use a photo of a piglet on your A Year Without Candy Blog?
Dana: The piglet is my alter ego. The piglet is trying to keep her head above water. Anyone who eats candy every day has a bit of piglet in them.
Connie: Given that you divide your time between France and the U.S., what’s it like to be a candy addict in France? And what happens when you return to the states?
Dana: France doesn’t have a candy tooth. France has tablets of French and Swiss chocolate. They don’t have candy bars. When I come home [to the U.S.], my downfall is going into Duane Reade and CVS. It’s like being in a crazy Garden of Eden with a zillion choices that you don’t see in France.
Connie: You gave up sweets once before, years ago. Tell us about that.
Dana: Yes, I gave up sweets from winter 2002 to 2003. I went back to it while [offered chocolate] climbing a mountain in Venezuela. A few months later, I had put on 15 pounds. It was almost as if my body was saying, “If you eat sweets, this is your punishment."
Connie: Are you eating other sweeteners?
Dana: I didn’t until recently when I had honey and peanut butter. I felt a little guilty eating honey even though I didn’t say [on my blog that] I was going to give it up. My goal is to see what it will feel like to be as sugar-free as possible. I don’t want honey all of a sudden become my new candy.
Would you recommend that people get off candies and other sweets?
Dana: I would recommend that people get off candy and sweets because we’re in the middle of an epidemic of diabetes and obesity. But it’s more than just that this substance is not good for you. There’s been a concerted effort [by companies] to get kids hooked on sugar and candy at a young age – it’s almost the corporate push that people should start to resist that goes way deeper than candy.
Connie: Has anyone not been supportive of you as you're kicking sweets?
Dana: Yes, not everyone has been supportive. [What I’m doing] threatens some people. At a birthday party [recently], someone said, “Oh you can just take off one night, right?” Or someone else said, “You can have some cake tonight?” People are saying, “Oh, you don’t have to give it up completely.” Or they’ll say, “Oh, you only live once."
Connie: So you stood your ground? Good for you.
Dana: Yes, I didn’t have any.
Connie: What advice can you give people who want to kick candy?
Dana: Do what I did. Somehow make it a challenge to yourself. …If you can't get past 2 weeks, then nothing can happen. You can't figure out what you'd be like, how your personality might change.(Note from Connie: Make sure to read Dana’s humorous piece on her Huffington Post blog, when she shared “The Ancient Secret to Kicking the Candy Habit” one month into being candy-free.)
Connie: So, Dana, where will you be 6 months from now?
Dana: Six months from now – I have the greatest confidence I will succeed in this. At that time, I’ll be able to tell you how else I feel differently. I think it takes a while for candy cloud to lift.
Connie: What would you like to have happen one year from now?
Dana: I certainly wouldn’t mind if 95 percent of the female population was eating less sweets. I don’t know what else it’s going to be like [for me] in a year. When you give up something that you have all the time, other stuff can come up to fill the void.
Connie: After one year, will you continue to be candy-free?
Dana: I don’t know. Maybe I won’t continue after a year. Or maybe I’ll get more inspired to give up more sugar [or other sweeteners] in my diet.
Connie: Thank you, Dana, for being so generous with your time.
You're a great inspiration to many, and I wish you the very best in
your goal to go A Year Without Candy.
Dana: It's my pleasure, Connie.
Note from Connie: I encourage you to regularly read Dana Kennedy’s A Year Without Candy blog for inspiration, clever writing, eye-opening information and fun.Stay tuned, because Dana will appear soon on my Gab with the Gurus Radio Show to educate, inspire and entertain you.