The Day After: Mindfully Eating Chocolate
Do you have a box of chocolates calling your name the day after Valentine’s Day? Or has it already been enjoyed? Notice my choice of verbs there — I’m subtly conveying the pleasure we can get from something as simple as chocolate.
Now the words chocolate and simple may not be words you often pair together. But think about it — at its simplest, chocolate is a mixture of the cacao bean and sugar that, combined, offers an elixir that’s magic to the taste buds as well as the body.
In these days of eating and weight worries, though, chocolate’s powers go far beyond that for many of us. It seemingly has the power to make us feel bad about ourselves. In reality, we give it that power. We don’t have to.
The first steps in taking undeserved power back from chocolate are two: Give yourself permission to eat what you want, and eat regularly and well. The first step is necessary to avoid feelings of deprivation that keep you focused on a particular food — if we believe we can’t have it, that’s what we keep pining for. Eating regularly and well supports your body physiologically, to help you best decide what you really want.
Chocolate is a scary food for many of us, though, so learning how to eat it without feelings of anxiety is important. If you have a box of chocolates left over from Valentine’s Day, here’s a brief exercise in mindful eating to help you start learning how to eat it, from our FitBriefing “Overcoming Binge Eating: Chocolate as Love.”
- Take a piece of your favorite chocolate.
- Before you pop it into your mouth, take a moment to smell and enjoy its aroma.
- Take a bite.
- Savor it slowly, enjoying how it melts on your tongue, how the flavor floods your mouth.
- Swallow when you’re ready.
- If you want, take another bite, savoring again and swallowing when ready.
- If you want another bite, take it. Continue eating it, eating slowly so you can savor, paying attention to how it tastes and how much you are enjoying it.
- When it starts not to taste as good and/or your enjoyment starts to fade, decide whether you have had enough.
- If not, continue eating.
- If so, then stop.
- Know that if you want more later, you can have it.
- Think positive thoughts about yourself, your body, your life.
If you’re staring down a big box of chocolates but you’re not ready to tackle a mindful eating exercise yet, share the love. Take it to work or a social gathering where it will be appreciated. That’s not avoidance — it’s choosing your moments, putting you in charge of when, where and how. Which is a big part of the recipe for taking care of yourself.
Hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!
Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, CD, is the owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a pioneering healthy weight retreat for women, where for four decades they’ve been helping women learn how to enjoy chocolate without worrying about their weight.