Stop the Craving, Not the Chocolate!
I have a confession — I’m a chocoholic. I MUST have access to chocolate continuously. I also recently lost over 100 pounds in a very healthy way. These two statements are complimentary, not contradictory.
My love of chocolate is not a recent discovery. Some of my fondest early childhood memories involved playing with my Easter bunny. Cast lovingly in a cheaply laced wicker basket, surrounded by pastels of all dimensions and textures, from pink and blue wrapping paper streamers spilling in all directors, aluminum wrapped chocolate, alongside the pastel plastic eggs, the Easter bunny captivated me. I would grab that milk chocolate rabbit and with a monsterous bite, would rip off his head, and chomp down with delight. Often a good portion of the rabbit ended up in a messy goo covering my hands and clothes.
Lest you worry I’m just another shill for Big Chocolate, at this point in my long term addiction, I usually stick to artisanal brands — I especially love this brand of 67% dark chocolate with mint right now (try at a local store, as Amazon is usually more than twice the price for artisanal chocolates as you’ll find at high-end grocery stores.
Less than two years ago, I weighed close to 300 pounds. Like many I had tried diets of all stripes and sizes. None of them are chocolate friendly. Well, OK, “all of them” are chocolate friendly if you include the horrific tasting products filled with chemical “health” concoctions that require a strong, welcoming taste — chocolate or vanilla — to cover the alien-ness of the proprietary blend. I of course would usually choose the crappy chocolate choice, but fixate on having real chocolate as soon as some short term weight loss goal was reached.
Because I was diabetic, I was forced to limit my Godiva intake. Only Valentine’s Day for my wife, and maybe one or two, or um, three other special occasions. Over time, the withholding of my desire for chocolate led to a long term and deep craving that was rarely satiated. Couple this with my tendency for stress eating, my chocolate intake often took the form of binge-style gorges at inopportune times — the type of gorging where you’re not exactly sure what you want so you get everything, and figure it out later as you open the packages. Each binge episode would eventually end with feelings of guilt, self-loathing and failure.
The craving is the root of the problem, not the chocolate.
Over the course of my weight loss journey, I’ve realized that withholding my desire for chocolate is the issue. In withholding my desire for chocolate, as with all diets, I must create an internal conflict — I have to become the jailer who withholds my desire for chocolate, while simultaneously I must also serve the sentence of the inmate, where over time my suffering over unfulfilled chocolate fantasies transforms into craving. And its this slow-build craving which becomes the instrument that my “inmate self” uses to eventually break down the will of my “jailer self.” This dynamic almost always results in a binge-induced jail break. Over time (although not always due to chocolate), it was largely this dynamic that caused me to become morbidly obese.
At its base form, craving is largely the end result — almost the root logic in fact behind most diets. When you settle for crappy alternative food choices, you are not doing yourself or your body any favors. Here’s what you get for your sacrifice of eating crappy alternative food choices for diet or health reasons:
- You are purposely deciding on a course that you know will leave you miserable in the present
- You are learning the behaviors that will keep you gaining weight for life!
The craving creates a dynamic that inevitably ends with out of control binge-style behavior — time and time again, year after year, leading to long term health problems. Of your own free will, you are in effect betting on a short term potential improvement in weight loss, by trading for immediate misery coupled with a higher probability of long term weight gain.
I enjoy the chocolate — need it in fact. Living life without chocolate is not something I have the willpower to achieve. In the 30 years of gaining 100 pounds, I bought into the advice to “limit your intake and look for substitutes you can tolerate” lines. Considering I just spent close to two years getting healthy and coming down to close to normal weight WHILE EATING AS MUCH CHOCOLATE AS I WANTED, I’ve decided its not something I should give up.
Your Bacon is My Chocolate
Quite the opposite of what drives craving, I surround myself 24x7 with access to chocolate using an ever changing variety of fun choices. Whatever food you crave — white rice if you grew up in a country eating it three times a day, bacon in the case of many close friends of mine — the likelihood that you will continue to eat it for the rest of your life is near certain. I’m suggesting you happily accept that fact and plan the rest of your life with this in mind. This won’t by itself make you skinny, but by removing the craving — binge cycle, you have the opportunity to create small, but tangible changes in your food choices that can be long lasting.
Choose Foods You Enjoy!
Changing your food choices is a long term process. Clearly eating Godiva for life is not a strategy for long term health. Over time, I slowly changed my palette — my taste for high sugar products is close to nonexistent now. I didn’t go straight from high sugar chocolates to 70% cacao (or 67% in the case of my current favorite), and I like almost none with 80% content, even though I now regularly chew on raw cacao beans or nibs. There was no straight line in my approach. Instead, I started looking for healthier substitutes that I truly enjoyed.
Whatever your object of food desire that often leads to craving, if it is unhealthy — like milk chocolate for diabetics in my case — you must start looking for alternatives. This is a gradual process, of trading one type of food you love for one you at least enjoy. Don’t shift to substitutes unless you really enjoy the change. Make the changes slowly, gradually, but make them stick!