the true cost of chocolate

Jan 18, 2015

While I have always had a ravenous desire for candy, I haven’t always had the means to appease my cravings. In my early years, access to candy was entirely dependent on my parents’ acquiescence. I would have to jump through hoops to convince my mom to buy me some every time we went shopping, and the outcome was not always guaranteed.

On some glorious occasions, my mom would concede and buy some, but most times she wouldn’t. So low was I willing to stoop in my pursuit of that temporary sucrose-induced high, that I would at times throw tantrums in public, or sulk for hours. I must have figured that personal pride was a small price to pay for the slight promise of a sugary reward. More often than not, however, all I got was a good spanking.

As I got older, my cuteness wore off and my best strategies for charming my parents were getting less effective. It became clear that I needed to get organized or suffer a sugarless life.

With my mother’s help, I started some odd businesses here and there, selling odds and ends and even doing a bit of manufacturing (those of you who knew me then, or with whom I’ve shared the stories know just how ludicrous some of my ventures were, but I’ll save that for a later post).

Fact is, I was back in business — the sugar business! With my new-found wherewithal, my relationship with sugar took on a whole other dimension. I made daily pilgrimages to the local duka (miniature grocery stores) after school, walking — and later when I got a bike, riding — the one or two kilometers that it took to get there. Sometimes, when I hadn’t earned enough money for the day’s indulgence, I would find other means to acquire it. More on that later.

My ritual was so consistent, that the shopkeeper knew me by name. He must have wondered how I got all the money to support my habit but he didn’t seem to care. He never asked, and I never told. It was better that way for both of us.

Today, I’m all grown up (surprise, surprise)!

But old habits die hard, and I have yet to outgrow my obsession with sugar. To put it in perspective, I once cooked chocolate-chip chicken. Up until a few weeks ago, I would regularly have ice cream for dinner. You’re probably thinking that I’m beyond help but allow me to explain myself and I’m sure you’ll conclude that my actions were all completely logical.

I mean, why suffer through a main course when all you really want is the dessert afterwards? Why not skip the agony and go straight for what you truly desire? And if you have some chocolate chips lying around, why not factor them into your recipe? They say that chocolate makes everything better. I can assert, with authority, that “everything” includes oven-broiled chicken!

Today, chocolate is inexpensive enough that price is of no consequence. The hidden costs, however, are dramatically higher, and I have reached a point in my life where I am no longer willing to bear them.

Some of the costs are less hidden than others. The obvious ones are the health costs. As a kid, that meant cavities. Today, it could mean diabetes, or even an early death. But these aren’t the costs that concern me today. These are easy to justify. I always welcomed an early death occasioned by something I enjoyed. Like they say, living happily and dying young is far better than the alternative.

The costs I write about today are those which can’t be easily justified, if at all.

For someone who had always been more athletic than most, I now find it emotionally and psychologically taxing to engage in activities where I can no longer keep up with the average person. Hence, I have never been to yoga, and have, in fact, become quite deft at deflecting requests to accompany people to class (as my dear friend Emily can attest). This was OK for a while until I realised that I was more impressed with myself for finding probable reasons not to go out and be active, than I was depressed at missing out. I had picked a game I could always win, only to lose the game(s) which truly matter.

Now this is where blogging gets into unfamiliar territory; when you realize you are about to become more forthcoming that you ever have, or ever intended to. Fact is, I have body issues. I object to the disproportionate manner in which my body carries its fat. Disappointingly, my veto doesn’t count — no matter how vehement! I have always had tiny man boobs for as long as I remember, but boy, did those soak up some fat in recent years! (Kudos to my old friend Voe for calling me out over Skype!)

My body issues have caused me to avoid some of the activities I love most. I no longer go swimming or cliff-jumping with friends. I avoid soccer games where one team has to take off their jerseys because I can’t handle the 50% chance of being on the shirtless team!

My self-confidence has suffered, and my social life more so. I avoid going out because I can no longer fit in my clothes, and due to an irrational sense of denial, refuse to go out and buy bigger ones (convincing myself that I can just go to the gym for a week and get back into shape, no problem)!

The worst thing: all my suits no longer fit as well as they once did! What’s the point of wearing a suit if it doesn’t look sharp? I could easily buy a fresh wardrobe, but those suits are priceless! This situation is unworkable; I must get back in shape. If not for any other reason, I’ll do it for the suits.

I’m beginning to ramble, so let me wrap it up.

While it’s absurd to desire conformity with the media’s perception of the perfect body shape and size, I think it’s wise to listen to your body for external cues as to what might be going on inside. Better yet, I think it’s worth auditing the true cost of your guilty pleasures, and having the courage to make changes should the costs be found to outweigh (no pun) the benefits.

**17 days**


Originally published at afterchocolate.com on January 18, 2015.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.