The first has something to do with the notion that food addicts and compulsive overeaters should avoid their trigger foods. This is a great theory. If you never allow the one food that sends you over the edge, you can avoid falling. The truth is that this does not always work for everyone. It didn’t always work for my mother. She found other foods to trigger her. She found other foods to binge on. I have had a similar experience. To some extent, yes, it helps to remove foods from my home that I am more likely to run to during a moment where my mind is not in its proper order. We don’t, as a rule, have any kind of chips in our house and if we have cakes or cookies, we get rid of them as quickly as we can. But my binges are driven by my own emotions/ my own mind, not just the foods themselves. I have been surrounded by cakes and cookies and cheese and crackers (my god! Crackers!) and not been tempted the least little bit. On these occasions, my mind was in the right order. On the other hand, I have binged on watermelon, carrots, pickles, etc…. In those moments, my mind was not in the right order. Sometimes, I am not surrounded by healthy foods when my mind is not in the right order and then I binge on the unhealthy foods – (read: potato chips). The point is, the binge is not brought on just by the foods themselves and therefore I see no sense in denying myself some of my favorite foods when my mind is in the proper order and I can stop when I’ve had enough.
My second theory for why my mother gave up chocolate is the steadily more well-known information that just cutting the one food you eat in excess from your diet will help you lose weight over time. For example, if you stop drinking the one can of regular soda you drink every single day, you will lose 12 pounds in a year (I’m not saying this is necessarily true but this is close to an example I’ve heard). This concept makes perfect sense if you change nothing else about your diet and if your diet is so regular that you literally eat that one food almost every single day. But, if you take your favorite pleasurable food away from yourself and this tricks your mind into thinking you need more of something else to replace what you’ve given up and then you overeat some other food – yeah, that’s not going to work. Maybe my mother thought that by giving up chocolate, she would simply be healthier in this way and there was bound to be some payoff, like weight loss, eventually. I know that whenever I’ve tried to tell myself, “I can never eat THAT food again, two things happen: 1) it’s the only food I want to eat ever again and 2) I eat a bunch of other crap to help me get over feeling so deprived. I’ve already mentioned that my mother collected recipes for all things chocolate. Why did she do this if she wasn’t going to eat it? The only answer I have to that is: self-torture.
Which brings me to my third theory. My mother was punishing herself. I don’t really feel like going into the reasons why she would be punishing herself. I think we all have enough guilt and regret in our lives to understand why someone might punish themselves to alleviate those feelings. This is my least favorite theory because it requires me to believe my mother lived in a constant state of thinking she had really screwed up. But she really really didn’t. My sister and I were actually just talking about how our mother’s love was the first and main thing that saved us. She gave her love generously and abundantly. Whatever else she did or did not do, I hope she was able to understand in some clearer moments that giving her love generously made her generous and loving – and who can do better than that? If eating chocolate made her feel like she did everything the very best she could with what she knew how to do, like she was deserving of love, then… I hope she’s sitting in the sun somewhere being fed bon-bons by a Tom-Cruise (circa Risky Business) look-alike. You’d love that, wouldn’t you Mom?
The only other reason I can think of for my mother depriving herself of chocolate is also the most likely. It upset her tummy. Too much can upset my tummy. And I also get my sensitivity to caffeine (and really to everything – we have very sensitive constitutions) from my mother. So, it’s also possible that too much chocolate gave her that same uncomfortable, shaky buzz that too much caffeine did. This happens to me sometimes. Depends on the chocolate. Depends on how much I allow myself to have.
10. My husband loves chocolate and, as I have mentioned before, there is something simply stunning about a man who openly loves chocolate. It makes him trustworthy, among other things. So, in this case, I eat chocolate for the good of my marriage.
9. My kids love chocolate and I believe it’s irresponsible parenting to make them feel that eating chocolate is somehow shameful or unacceptable. You think I’m joking. I’m totally not.
8. Because I couldn’t eat chocolate comfortably for about three years while my gallbladder was filling up with waxy little yellowish-brown stones then they took that sucker out and it didn’t hurt to eat chocolate anymore. Word. I’m making up for lost time.
7. Because if I plan for the fact that I’m going to eat some chocolate every day, I actually avoid binging once it does – on schedule – present itself to me
6. Because if I tell myself I can’t have chocolate, as soon as someone puts chocolate in my face, I will have it and I will have it and have it and have it until I couldn’t possibly have it anymore (this is what we call Binging, folks)
5. Because, like anyone, I deserve pleasures and chocolate is certainly one
4. Because if I tell myself I can’t have chocolate, chocolate is all I want
3. Because there are relatively healthy ways to work some chocolate into a healthy diet – even, yes, on a daily basis (more on this in a minute)
2. Because life is painfully short
1. Because my mother didn’t/ couldn’t/ would not allow herself to
Much of my understanding about how my psyche works when I deprive myself of chocolate comes from reading every single book by Geneen Roth. Roth writes insightfully about the issue of compulsive overeating. In one of her first books (perhaps the first), she suggests simply eating only – ever—what you want. That is, if all you ever want to eat is pizza, eat pizza – BUT… here’s the trick. You only eat when you are truly hungry and you only eat until your hunger is satiated. Roth’s approach to “curing” compulsive overeating is mainly to help people understand the difference between their appetite and their hunger. Appetite is purely mental. Hunger is physical. Your body requires food to keep moving and breathing all day long – that’s hunger. You’re already full-as-a-tick at the barbeque but damn that bag of salt & vinegar chips someone just opened looks good, so you eat half the bag – that’s appetite. The major cause, Roth seems to believe, of compulsive overeating is the total disconnection between our bodies and our minds. If we are able to truly listen to our bodies and allow our bodies to influence our choices, we will make the right choices. There is a lot of wisdom in this, in my experience. Though Roth (as she later admitted herself) was a bit misguided in telling compulsive overeaters to eat as much as they want when they want it. The compulsive overeater stops listening right there. “Okeedokee” the compulsive overeater says and runs to the telephone to order a couple of quarts of Mu Shu Chicken. It’s hard to hear the part that says… but only when you are physically hungry… and only until you are just satiated (which is a far cry from “full”).
I know this is how the compulsive overeater’s mind works not just because I am one but because I had a similar reaction to Lou Schuler’s advice when I read The New Rules of Lifting for Women. One of the chapters (or maybe it’s just a section – but in my mind’s eye it’s so big and bold that it’s a chapter heading) is actually called, “EAT MORE.” What? Are you kidding? When I read just that heading, I said out loud, “don’t tell me that!” I knew those two words, in my mind, would be dangerous. And they were. Of course, I went on to read that chapter or section but my mind hardly absorbed any of it because the monkey inside of it was busy running around, clapping its symbols and just saying over and over “eat more eatmore eatmoreeatmoreeatmoreeatmore!!! Wheeeeeeee!!! EEEEAEAAAT MOOOORRRRE!” It took me about two years to admit I understood what Schuler was talking about and to start implementing the “eat more” suggestions sanely into my own nutrition program. He doesn’t mean eat more of everything, like my mind-monkey was hoping. He means eat WAY more of the good things. Go ahead and eat fruits and vegetables until you think you’ll bust. Eat more whole grains – and less refined. Eat more lean protein – and less animal fat. When you are eating healthy foods, you actually “eat more” food than when you are eating unhealthy foods. 1,000 calories of fruits and vegetables takes up way more space than 1,000 calories of French fries. And…when you are exercising (maybe especially lifting heavy weights) regularly and vigorously, your body needs lots of food! Our bodies need lots of nutrients to perform effectively – and effective performance is key if you plan to reap any of the benefits of exercise.
Which brings me back to chocolate and how MoJo’s Kitchen makes it part of our recommended, healthy daily nutritional program. The following goodies are all part of our 4-week menu rotation and thus planned for, shopped for and prepped on the weekends, if need be. Here are our chocolate eating guidelines: 1) eat chocolate every day, 2) try to have your chocolate in the afternoon – smack dab between lunch and dinner because that’s when you know you’ll want it most and 3) if you have chocolate at breakfast, have a little less chocolate later, if you can manage. If you feel like you would like to eat chocolate every single day but find it hard to work in to a healthy diet, try some or all of these:
Clif Chocolate Brownie Z-Bars: My kids eat these so we usually have some on hand. If I don’t have any Zone bars and I need an afternoon chocolate, I grab one of these. Slightly fewer calories, a bit less filling so I usually eat a banana or an apple with it.
(or just find your preferred chocolate protein bar – almost across the board, these have less fat and calories and more fiber than candy bars and taste just as good -- just make sure it doesn’t have over 12 grams of protein or anything – you don’t need that much because as long as you are eating, you’re getting most of the protein you need elsewhere)
These are a variation on Bob’s Red Mill gluten free muffins. Basically, add chocolate chips. Leave out cranberries, if you want. Use raisins or almonds or walnuts. Whatever floats your boat. Tim Kenyon, our resident baker at MoJo’s, actually makes his own flour for these babies and has his own special blend of spices he adds in but if he gave you his special recipe, he’d have to kill ya, so I’ll spare your life by not even asking. We used to call them Mighty Timbo Muffins, after their maker but then Timbo started making them for Mitchy every time we would go to visit him so they are affectionately named after my brother now.
Chocolate-Pumpkin Brownie Bites: 1/2 cup of water (or a bit less or more depending on brownie mix), small can of pureed pumpkin, 1 brownie mix (we use bob’s red mill gluten free because… that’s how we gotta roll with hubby’s celiac, yadda, yadda – you can find “healthy-ish” brownie mixes at health food stores that would increase the health factor here as well). Mix it together, bake according to directions. If you want “bites,” bake in a mini-muffin pan. And they are actually a yummy frozen treat – chocolaty and chewy!
Trail Mix: some kind of nut – I use 12 almonds; 2 tablespoons of some kind of dried fruit – I use raisins and sometimes craisins too; 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips; and if you’re feeling sassy, throw some pieces of pretzel in there.
And I’ll leave you with two laws of MoJo’s Kitchen’s Universe, that really make up the underpinning philosophy of why we advocate eating chocolate every day:
If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. But…
If it feels good, do it in moderation.
And if chocolate doesn’t feel good to you…. Uh…. I don’t know… I got nothing… are you human? I don’t know. I don’t have time to psychoanalyze you but something probably isn’t right. I have to go eat my chocolate-pumpkin brownie bites now. It’s 3:30pm already! May you be healed of your non-chocolate-loving affliction soon!
And, for those of you normal people…
Cook and Eat (Chocolate) with love,