For as long as I can remember, I have eaten dessert every night. While I leant more towards ice cream and regular milk chocolate throughout most of my earlier life, my dessert of choice became dark chocolate around five years ago. Every single night, I ate two squares of dark chocolate (usually Lindt sea salt). It didn’t matter how late I got home, how busy I was or how full I already was, I always made time and room for chocolate.
That is, until December, when I started travelling with my best friend. Since then, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had dessert in the evening. In the past three months, I’ve only bought one block of chocolate – and even that was shared with my friend.
I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop eating chocolate; it just kind of happened. In Norway, we refused to pay £5 for a bar of chocolate, so we didn’t have any. In Stockholm, we ate Swedish biscuits during the day instead. In London and Guatemala, we were so busy in the evenings that I didn’t even have time to think about dessert.
Since I’ve been on my own once again, I haven’t bought a single sweet thing. I realised that eating chocolate every night was simply a habit that I wasn’t really enjoying that much anymore.
Breaking the habit
People often ask me how to break the bad habit of eating a whole block of chocolate, or a whole pint of ice cream or a whole pizza.
My simple answer is to not keep these foods in the house. It’s hard to binge on something that isn’t there and, when you have to make the effort to go all the way to the grocery store, your food of choice suddenly becomes less appealing. In London, I lived right next to two grocery stores and yet I rarely bothered going out to get whatever I was craving.
If having these foods in the house is out of your control (they are your partner’s or children’s, you were given them as a gift, etc), put them out of sight. Use a cupboard that is away from eye level or hide them away in a different room. When I have a large amount of chocolate in the house (usually at Christmas time), I often store it in my closet or under my bed. I forget it is there, and then only eat it when I’m really craving it.
Your habits start in the store. It had been a habit of mine (for five freaking years!) to buy a block of chocolate every week. It was never even a conscious thought. It certainly felt weird to not buy one the first couple of times, but now I just skip the confectionary aisle completely.
I’m saving money and I’m losing weight. I hate to sound like one of those people, but I do notice that whenever I eat sugar now it makes me feel like crap. Aside from a couple of pieces of fruit per week and one sugar in my coffee per day, I’m not eating anything obviously high in sugar, so its effects are more pronounced.
By no means am I cutting out chocolate completely, however! I still plan on enjoying all the delicious pastries and desserts France has to offer, once a week or so, but I am honouring the fact that my cravings have switched more towards savoury foods. Maybe I’m all sweetened out after eating gelato 90 times in 90 days!
Part of the reason I was able to break my chocolate habit is because I began eating more mindfully, too. In Antigua, meal time was a family affair. A big group of us all sat and ate together, for at least 30 minutes per meal, with no distractions (no phones, books, TV, etc). It really taught me to tune into my hunger and satiety signals, and realise that I could be satisfied from my meals alone – without needing anything sweet to finish.
What should you do?
I am also not suggesting that you must cut out your daily chocolate habit. If it’s something that makes you happy and something that fits in line with your goals then, of course, continue. Just ask yourself whether the reason you are eating something on a daily basis is because you really want to, or because it has become an unconscious habit.
If you want to break a habit like this – whether it be with chocolate, alcohol or even smoking – I’d recommend going cold turkey. When people try to cut back gradually (from, say, every day to three times a week), it usually only increases their cravings and makes them obsess over the food/substance more. The first few days will be tough, but you will honestly soon forget about it. You will likely also feel better physically, which will spur you on to continue.
If you are scared about cutting something out of your life permanently, just tell yourself you will give it your best shot for 30 days only. From there, you can decide whether to continue or not.
Do you have a daily food habit?