When I entered my freshman year of college at Penn, I was thrown into a whole new world of dining halls, food trucks, and endless lists of delicious restaurants in Philly. My stomach and I embraced this new world of food with full force. Every Thursday I picked up an everything bagel with egg and cheese from Lyn’s (I’m lactose intolerant, but it was worth it), and every other day I got a banana dark chocolate cookie from Magic Carpet.


Photo by Michelle Ra

When my mom, Kimberly Doo, came to visit my dorm room, she was shocked to discover the fruit roll ups, Lucky Charms, and buckets (I’m not joking) of Hershey’s kisses that my mom didn’t like me to eat as a kid. While I was stuffing myself, my mom was embarking on her own self-declared “No-C’s diet.”

The No-C’s Diet


Photo by Meredith Marcus

What does that even mean? My mom explained, “I was going through my pantry one day when I noticed that all of the junk food I liked to eat started with the letter C: chips, crackers, cookies, candy, cupcakes, ice cream, chocolate, cake and so on. So I cut all of the junk food that started with the letter C out of my diet.”


Photo by Lexa Rowland

What I didn’t realize, however, is that my mom soon tossed all of these foods out of our family shelves. I returned from breaks eager for my mom’s Nutella cookies or the endless supplies of Oreos and popcorn (yep, that counts as a “C”) that I used to snack on after school as a kid. My home comfort foods were now fruit and kale chips, and I wasn’t happy about it.

The Test

So I survived fall break without cupcakes and Thanksgiving Break without pumpkin pie (reluctantly, I might add). The real challenge would be winter break – a month without desserts. But if my mom could do the C’s diet for a year, I could do it for a month, right?


Photo by Michelle Ra

Wrong. I barely lasted for two days. I simply went to my neighborhood Pinkberry or picked up one or two (or three) Insomnia cookies. Meanwhile, my mom had gone more than 10 months without sweets.

Lessons Learned


Photo courtesy of the USDA

When I asked my mom what motivated this lifestyle change, she responded, “There’s nothing more fulfilling than knowing that your body runs a little better without this excess sugar and carbohydrates.” I know it sounds very cheesy, but my mom pointed out a few key things.

First, since she didn’t order dessert anymore at restaurants, she saved money (and we all know college kids can save money). Second, by cutting out processed foods, she says, “I felt like I had a little extra pep in my step. I honestly felt better about my body and myself.”

I love Oreos and Nutella and other processed goodies as much as the next person, but my mom was right. The U.S. consumes much more than its fair share of processed goods: in fact, 63 percent of the calories in our diet comes from ingredients like added sugars and refined grains (think white bread, cookies, and breakfast cereals).

Bottom Line

Does my mom recommend this challenge? “It’s really hard! There’s nothing I love more than German Chocolate Cake, and I could not have it for a year. I really took it one day at a time.” Also, if weight loss is your goal, the C’s diet isn’t for you. My mom says she didn’t really lose that much weight, so much as she gained confidence.

Don’t cut out these foods from your diet completely. Now that my mom has completed a full year without sweets, she agrees moderation is key. And after coming back from winter (and spring break) with my mom’s advice in my pocket, I now use this same approach. I can have Shake Shack, just not with two burgers, two milkshakes and fries (it’s happened before…). Eat until you’re full and eat what makes you healthy and happy. Simple as pie – which doesn’t start with a C.