Chocolate is one of the most notorious temptations that leads us to ditch our diets when cravings hit. So why would anyone ever encourage you to chow down on the sweet treat while trying to stay healthy? Well, there’s the fact that chocolate isn’t totally bad for us — you can even find keto-friendly chocolate recipes! It can also give immune-boosting zinc an extra kick against oxidative stress, which is the main cause of aging.
Apart from those perks, though, several nutrition experts believe that restricting yourself from something like your favorite candy will only lead to eventually bingeing on it. That will then lead to guilt, and a vicious cycle that repeats over and over again. Michelle May, MD, who describes herself on as a “recovered yo-yo dieter” on her website Am I Hungry?, explains further:
“When you label certain foods ‘bad,’ you’ll feel bad about yourself when you eat them. Ironically, the more you try to avoid these foods, the more power they gain over you. When you finally give into those powerful cravings, you’ll feel guilty and out of control. You think, ‘I’ve already blown it, I might as well keep eating,’ reinforcing your belief that chocolate is bad and that you’ll lose control when you eat it.”
Dr. May recommends “eating fearlessly” by eliminating words and phrases like “let myself,” “indulge,” and “treat” from your vocabulary. “Practicing self-care is not an indulgence,” she writes, “It’s a necessity.” Instead, May recommends focusing on eating mindfully. “Once we recognize what we’re really hungry for, food (yes, even chocolate) can serve its true purpose of fueling our fulfilling lives.”
That’s the idea that Tara Parker-Pope, the founding editor of Well on New York Times, embraced while forming NYT’s 30-Day Well Challenge. Parker-Pope first boils building healthy habits down to four guiding principles: move, nourish, refresh, and connect. The first two focus on the body, encouraging non-sedentary lifestyle and filling your body with healthy food — including chocolate. Refresh and connect refer to how we should give our minds a break to restart now and again, and how our bonds with friends and loved ones will help us be happier and healthier.
As she elaborates on the “nourish” aspect, Parker-Pope introduces an idea she calls the Mindful Chocolate Challenge, which is inspired by May’s mindful eating practice. By selecting a single piece of chocolate (or fruit if you’re not a chocolate fan) and savoring it with mindful meditation, you can nourish both your mind and body.
While sitting down to avoid distractions, you should slowly unwrap the sweet, paying attention to the sounds and aroma as you do. Then, instead of popping the whole thing in your mouth, take a small bite and focus on the texture and flavor on your tongue. As you continue to chew, continue to pay attention to how that changes with each chomp. Leisurely repeating this process until you’ve finished your chocolate should become a relaxing, meditative state. This practice will then hopefully encourage you to be just as mindful while selecting and enjoying all of your other daily meals and snacks.
It sounds so simple, but that’s exactly what makes it such an easy technique to try out yourself. Who knows? One piece of chocolate really might be the answer to finally breaking all of your diet cycles and creating a healthier lifestyle for good.