Home My Journey The Day I Gave Up The Brownies

The Day I Gave Up The Brownies

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Three days before Christmas, I decided. I’d bake some brownies.

Gooey, chocolatey, rich, deep dark brownies. I’d even make a cream cheese center for them. It was written. Consider it already decided.

I scoured the Internet looking for an adequate recipe that I could manipulate, and eventually found one that I’d stored away for the future. I wrote down the ingredients, and took off jogging toward the grocery store to snatch up what I’d need.

Never mind the fact that I was hitting the grocery store on Christmas Eve, and never mind the fact that I spent at least half of my time preparing to elbow little old angry ornery people who didn’t believe that common courtesy includes not blocking the entire center aisleway because they want to decide on whether or not to buy some darn maraschino cherries. Never mind that. Christmas was coming, and I was baking brownies.

I got home, put away the groceries, and went on about my day… until, oh, somewhere around 7PM. Figuring I’d get a head start on the Christmas cooking, I got on with the dicing, chopping, marinating… and then, I saw it. The dark chocolate I’d purchased for the brownie recipe. I let out a long, deep sigh… grabbed my mixing bowl… and got to work.

At first, the entire experience was exciting! Melt the dark chocolate in with the butter. I love to bake, so this was heavenly for me. Who wouldn’t enjoy making something awesome with real ingredients?

But then… it started to become a little suspect. The amount of butter was… troubling. Then… we got to the kicker: two cups of sugar?! Two cups of sugar? Suppose I’d actually baked a recipe with that much sugar in it. Who, in this household, was going to eat it? Me?!

Then I got to the cream cheese center… and I couldn’t even bear it at this point. Another half-cup of sugar. What on Earth? Is this what it takes to make a delicious batch of brownies? They have to be full of that sugar, fat and salt trio? For real?

At this point… I was just curious. I layered the brownies and the creamy cheese center in the baking pan. After staring at the pan for a while, I slid it into the oven and waited… patiently.

Too patiently, almost.

I considered what I’d find once the brownies were finished. Would I go flying back into my sugar addiction? Would they taste disgusting to me? Would I wind up trying to swallow the pan whole like we see in all those teenage girl movies? I just wanted to know… how would this play out?

The brownies finished, and I grabbed the pan out. They looked… like brownies. Nothing magical about ’em at all. I grabbed the spatula, chopped a chunk out of the corner, and lifted it out. I blew on it, slid it into my mouth and… nothing.

That’s right. Nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. They were absolutely delicious… but I think the thing that made “brownies” such a “golden standard” for deliciousness and amazement and “Mmmmmmm” for me was gone. The emotional attachment to food, the ability to crave those brownies and that feeling they gave me, was gone. The kind of euphoria that comes from a well-made dessert was no longer attainable. It just wasn’t happening for me.

For years, I used to overindulge on cheaply made brownies. I used to act a complete and utter fool with a good box of individually-wrapped brownies in private. Now? Nothing.

I thought long and hard about this, as I stared at the pan of brownies… with no desire to dig in the way I used to. Did that mean that the problem was how I used to eat them? My response to baked goods was that unnatural?

Or was it the fact that I took great pains to make sure that my ingredients had limited additives and preservatives? Limited unnatural interference? You know, the stuff that food manufacturers do to their food to make it “irresistable?” I had made a delicious brownie… and it was, in fact, resistable. This was new… it was also frightening.

So… in making the brownies, was I expecting the unnatural reaction that I’d get from, say, a brownie filled with high fructose corn syrup? A brownie mixed in a giant robot machine with someone flipping the dials to get the chemical combinations just right so that I’d never be able to put it down?

And what did my reaction mean for my sugar addiction? I’ll never proclaim that I’ve completely beaten it – I question whether or not that’s possible – but the fact that I wasn’t experiencing that euphoric feeling in response to that bite? How I just bit into it… appreciated the taste… and was over it? Was I on my way back to a balanced appreciation of sugar?

I can do that? I guess so. What a Christmas gift to myself – knowing that I had, in fact, come farther in my journey than I thought. Knowing that I was one step closer to just feeling completely free. And by “free,” I mean “not pacing and worrying about the potential for my falling back into my bad habits every time I taste something with even a hint of sugar in it.”

I wound up putting the brownies in the fridge, and leaving them there. The next day, after Christmas dinner, I offered my daughter one… but she was actually uninterested. Instead, she reached for a mango and asked me to cut it. I peeled the skin, sliced thin strips off of it and handed them to her on a saucer. The rest, I killed it myself.

No more brownies… but mangoes? I think I could get addicted to those.

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23 comments

Chellbellz December 27, 2010 - 12:51 PM

You know I can’t wait until i get to the point. I love baking, but mainly I bake for others, and i think its about to get extremely complicated to bake and eat clean even if its for other people. I have to taste to make sure things are right, but a part of me feels guilty while creaming butter and sugar and then giving it to someone else, when i know I swear against it.

I don’t know what I should do…

Tina (laidbackchick) December 27, 2010 - 12:51 PM

Good for you! I did indulge this holiday, as I baked and even fried some fish. It’s been a minute for either. I initially thought I would OD on all of this delicious. I put it on my plate but piled on the veges and it was good, but nothing life changing. Definitely a treat, but there is something about seeing all of the oil and all of the sugar that kills it for me.

Rebecca December 27, 2010 - 1:27 PM

You are beautiful. Thanks for helping me keep the faith. **I had a Christmas cookie explosion**

VM December 27, 2010 - 1:51 PM

Good for you! I totally get where you’re going. Once you don’t eat or drink certain things after a while, you find yourself totally over it. Me and Pepsi Max were BFFs, until I stopped drinking it. Now, I don’t miss it at all. I can’t ever see myself drinking it again. I had some apple pie from Trader Joe’s this past holiday weekend. It was great, but meh…I know I wouldn’t miss it if I never have it again. My favorites are also mangoes, strawberries, bananas and Bosc pears. Yummmmmmmmm….

sanssel December 27, 2010 - 2:15 PM

I boils down to eating to live vs living to eat. If you are eating to live, you know what your body needs.

Trina December 27, 2010 - 2:21 PM

I did the same thing a few weeks ago when I baked oatmeal raisin cookies from scratch. I have never really baked since believing for so long that I couldn’t and found that I enjoyed the process more than the end result. lol I am finding that the things that I used to CRAVE just aren’t doing it for me. I ate the cookies and was fine..I had a cupcake and was just so disappointed that I haven’t had any since. But I am still so terrified that I’m going to fall off and wakeup from a junk food binge with crumbs all over me. How do you begin to trust yourself? That even though you have said no and been okay, do everything to even avoid temptation like not even going past the store,and you don’t even LIKE the stuff you used to eat, that in the back of your head you still feel like you are going to just go insane on the food? How have you dealt with that?

Alovelydai December 28, 2010 - 9:14 AM

I too love the process more than the end result…although the end result is still tasty. Maybe I just get full & satisfied from the scrumptious aroma that baking provides.

I also heard someone say that if you want treats & snacks to make them yourself. Otherwise don’t bother. Stops me from eating chips & cheese crackers everyday. Who wants to actually fry chips?

Shante December 27, 2010 - 3:19 PM

I’m new to your blog and have been reading it all weekend since I have the holiday off from work and I have to tell you I love it. I found the title of this post to be very interesting because I am a Pastry Chef and so I had to read this. Its funny people always tell me if they had my job they would be 300 plus pounds but I’ve never luckily had that issue. I don’t believe in eating everything all the time just because it is there. People that make those comments to me always make me wonder about their self control. I am a chef and I know the difference between high quality and fake food. The thing is though that I don’t eat a lot of what I make and thats if I eat at all. Chefs tend to go without food a lot more than people think because there is no time to eat, to busy. Now my poor and really lack of eating habits have finally caught up with me and I’ve slowly but surely put on the pounds. I’m at a point where I don’t want to be any bigger or continue living unhealthy. All that being said I know I’ll never leave behind the brownies. For me one small brownie square or scoop of amazing dark chocolate sorbet is a special kind of heaven but after all I am a chef and so for me its clearly different.

Rita December 28, 2010 - 5:38 AM

For me it was cupcakes, more specifically cupcakes from my favorite local baker…I havent gotten into baking my own goods yet, I’m still mastering keeping them out of the house and out of my path….I used to physically crave these decadent cupcakes. One day I got some for friends and tried one after a very long hiatus. Much to my disappointment the thrill was gone. One bight and I felt nauseous from sugar overload. That did it. I no longer miss them and have no need to buy them.

poitreenmoshun December 28, 2010 - 12:07 PM

*sigh* You post this just as I consider purchasing this “Calm down. Have a cupcake” bookmark. Why you always gotta interrupt my fun E?!!?

I think I’m getting there. I’m still “home for the holidays” and there is a bakery here that is DIVINE!!! Haven’t had them in over a year. Went in yesterday and ordered 3 pink lemonade cake squares, 3 white on white cake squares, and a ginger spice cupcake. Out of all that, over the course of about 12 hours, I ate one pink lemonade square and later on half the ginger spice cupcake. I looked at the box immediately after I paid for them and wondered what I was going to do with it all. I remember a time when I’d have smashed 2 of the pink lemonade ones and 1 of the white on white ones before leaving the parking lot. Seriously. I was hogging and swashling down with milk. I’m getting better E. So much so that I didn’t even buy that bookmark. I DID, however, take a picture of it and will be @replying it to you in a very short time. Mgmt.

Milaxx February 27, 2011 - 5:52 PM

You know i think I’m there. I’ve cut a lot of things out of my diet and only allow limited portions of others. My sweet tooth is still there, but i can satisfy it with fruit or juicing/making smoothies. I have a brownie made with black beans and avocados that I am going to try, but I think it’s more for curiosity than the chocolate craving. Quitting coffee was actually the biggest aid in curbing my sweet tooth. The ritual of that morning cup usually included creamer and a pastry of some sort, so quitting coffee kicked a lot of refined sugar out of my diet.

now if only I can get the gym routine down pat……..

Norn March 18, 2011 - 9:54 AM

This is a beautiful story!
Besides the nutritional value (ha!), there’s a life lesson about enjoying THE PROCESS and not focusing on THE RESULT!
⚡❤⚡ thank you ⚡❤⚡

Sara April 28, 2011 - 8:24 AM

Ummm i would like your recipe for those brownies….LOL (str8 face serious)

Zee May 19, 2011 - 11:45 AM

Nice… 🙂

Raisin_in_Arlington August 31, 2011 - 1:45 PM

“Gooey, chocolatey, rich, deep dark brownies.”

LOL! Fabulous entry. Your preparation and anticipated enjoyment remind me of those ridiculous commercials about women virtually having orgasms over their coffee drinks, peppermint patties and chocolate nuggets (oh, and paint, yes, I said paint). TV has women treating themselves with sweets in private, in bathtubs, rolling around on beds, like it’s so good to be a little bad when you indulge. Lord does TV keep push this disordered relationship with food. I’m so with you on fruit addiction. Every time I snap into a nice cold orange or fresh pineapple I’m in heaven.

Though I gotta say, I have a serious weakness for dulce de leche (fresh caramel), but my husband and I bring it into the house very rarely (every two months) and in very, very small portions (12 ounces and below).

Mary Ann MacKay January 30, 2012 - 1:39 PM

I am SO happy for you! That is truly a milestone. I sincerely hope the trend continues. It’s a wonderful feeling to be back in control, isn’t it?

When I make a batch of brownies or Neiman Marcus cookies (both my absolute favorites!) I have one serving and freeze the rest. Then, I can take out just one serving and not be faced with a whole batch.

Whatever it takes!

Durkia March 27, 2013 - 1:13 PM

Insert sad face here! I have a total weakness for cupcakes and lord knows I have been wanting one from my local cupcake bakery so bad. Yesterday I said to myself… I am going to get me ONE cupcake, you’ve had a long couple of weeks you deserve it! But know and behold I decided to drive pass the cupcake shop and went home and ate some of the banana bread I baked the other day. It satisfied the craving that I was having. I’ve been getting better I must admit. Eating fruit helps but to a certain point. *le sigh* I want to be where you are (in my best Micheal Jackson voice)! lol

Kristin March 27, 2013 - 6:22 PM

I am so glad I saw this post today. I am about 4 weeks into my journey of weight loss/fitness/clean eating and have been doing great….but not the last few days. The last few days I have given into those mid afternoon sugar cravings, the thing is I didnt give into them one day, I gave into them like the last three days in a row. As a result, I lost no weight this week. I am happy I didnt gain but, still….I needed to see this post, I needed to be reminded how much I want to no longer be a slave to my food/sugar addiction. As Easter approaches, I am looking forward to proving to myself that I can lose weight over a holiday weekend, that I can resist the candy in my children’s easter baskets, that I can say no to the bread,mash potatoes, varioius other simple carbs that tend to be a part of holiday meals. I can do it, I keep telling myself. I can turn it down, and the more I fight, the closer I get to the day when I can take that bite and feel nothing. Thank you, Erika, I love you blog so much!

Rene March 28, 2013 - 1:52 AM

I can’t say that I have completely flipped the switch. But I no longer salivate at the site of brownie or cookies and cakes. And when a fresh plate of treats made with fresh ingredients come my way if I feel like it, I have one. But usually I’m not interested anymore. And those snacks at the register – I can honestly say I’m over my love affair with kit kats and reeses cups! Knowing all the crap that’s in them they just don’t taste as good as they once did…

Dina April 9, 2013 - 1:34 AM

Mango, totally.
However, if you insist on a good brownie recipe that doesn’t contain all that fat, sugar and salt, here’s a good one:
http://www.travelerslunchbox.com/journal/2007/7/31/brownies-alla-nona.html
Personally, I took down the amount of sugar by about `1/4 of a cup, and cut down the salt to 1/8 of a tsp. if I recall correctly. But seriously, these brownies kick ass, and being based on olive oil instead of butter, they are lighter on the stomach as well.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 9, 2013 - 10:14 AM

I have no idea how olive oil is, in any way, lighter than butter. They have damn near the exact same nutritional profile. LOL

Brownies are brownies. Flour, sugar, salt, chocolate – which means MORE sugar – water, fat. It’s not really about making “healthier” brownies, because “healthier versions” are usually glorified cardboard, anyway. It’s much more about reserving brownies for an opportunity to have the best of the best, enjoying them for what they are – and realizing that the enjoyment doesn’t equate to “oh my gosh I can’t control myself brownies brownies omnomnom” – and then going on about my day.

When I DO decide to make brownies, I’m not doing anybody’s “modified” version. I’m gonna get the best chocolate there is, the best cream cheese there is, the best cake flour, the best and most flavorful butter, the finest of sea salts, and the best sugar available. And I ain’t gonna go HAM on ’em then, either. LOL

Sheretha Edwards May 14, 2013 - 1:07 PM

I have to admit that I am a brownie addict. I have told my kids that we are going on a 30 day brownie cleanse. My will power is a little weak when it comes to the brownies but I have resisted most if not all of my vices and I am weaning but not denying myself anything. What I have realized is that once I get it I don’t necessarily want it and don’t buy it again. This is not an overnight thing

Shateemd August 1, 2013 - 10:18 AM

It was nice meeting you at Blogher. You know I love your work. But. This post title was fighting words. Brownies and ‘give up’ in the same sentence! I didn’t think that was possible. So I clicked over in anger and desperation (what is the secret to cutting the chocolaty chains). And. Not only did you draw me in with your description that affirmed the fabulousness of brownies, you convinced me that giving them up is possible, that it is possible not to have the one-bite-whole-pan reaction AND you gave me a tool to get it done. So I remain a grateful fan. No fight.
Thank you.

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