I loved chocolate. It was my go-to treat and I would always have some in the kitchen cupboard – usually a big bar of Galaxy or Lindt. It was there for when I needed it, and when I consumed it, out of said need – usually emotional (no surprise there) – I would replenish my stock. I would never be without chocolate in the house. Once it’s within arm’s reach, it’s surprising (or perhaps not surprising at all), how many reasons there are to draw on it.
The first time I gave up chocolate began one year on Easter Sunday. I’d chomped my way through half an Easter egg without even tasting it. You know how that goes… break a bit, shove it in your mouth, chomp it, break another bit, shove it in your mouth, chomp it – all the while concentrating not on the delight of the chocolate, but on whatever is on the TV in front of you. A sugar and calorie-laden conveyor belt from lap to stomach (or perhaps that’s from lap to hips, thighs, belly and exploding layers of chin….).
I had a bit of a moment – a non-seasonal epiphany. I looked at what remained of my chocolate egg and I wondered, if I could eat all that chocolate without tasting it or hardly noticing it even, would I really miss it if it wasn’t there?
I put the remaining half of the Easter Egg in the fridge and six months later, I threw it out.
My first chocolate fast lasted five years, during which time not a single chocolaty delight passed my lips; no chocolate bars, no chocolates, no chocolaty desserts, no chocolate biscuits (yes, that was tough); and no chocolaty cakey gooey stuff either; no truffle, ganache or cocoa buttercream, no chocolate spreads, no chocolate shavings; no chocolate decorations; no chocolate-covered anythings; no hot cocoa or chocolate milk. Nada.
I was doing so well….
Then a dear friend who had forgotten I didn’t eat chocolate, brought round a box of the stuff when I was in dire need of cheering up one evening. I didn’t have either the heart to offend her, or the will to reject the chocolate, and off the wagon I fell. I’d often wondered – fantasised, I suppose you might call it – about what chocolate I would eat first, if or when I gave up giving up chocolate. Would it be a creamy Belgian truffle or a slab of 60% cocoa? An unctuous chocolate brownie or a slice of chocolate fudge cake? Would I choose milk or plain? Would I opt for a flavour, like caramel or mint, or keep it pure and… chocolaty? In the end, it was a Ferrero Rocher. I was brought down by a blob of Nutella coated in hazelnuts. I don’t even like them! But that, was that.
I had another go, beginning in 2010, and I did it differently that time. You can read about it in my blog post ‘Countdown to Chocolate’. I gave myself Christmas and Easter off each year – chocolate fast amnesties, if you will – and when it came to those two seasons, all bets were off. (Careful when you read that old blog post – I don’t want to be accused of leading you astray.) And I have stuck to that programme.
But with my healthy lifestyle drive beginning last September, and having eliminated 95% of added sugar from my diet long before Christmas 2015, I didn’t do my usual, of stocking up on all my favourite chocolaty goodies for the festive season. I stuck to my new healthy lifestyle and remained a stranger to cocoa and sugar throughout December.
Now Easter has come and gone, and I bought chocolate eggs for my nephews, and nothing for myself. It was, I’m delighted to report, a no-brainer this year. It wasn’t a trial, I didn’t even think about it. Or, maybe just for a moment, when my brother brought out a box of mint chocolates the size of a house after Easter Sunday lunch. Actually… not even then. Yes, you can tell I’m feeling smug, can’t you? A moment’s silence please, for Hotel Chocolat’s profits, which will have taken quite a hit this month.
In case you’re interested, I’m happy to confirm, it IS indeed possible to live without chocolate. Nothing bad happens when you walk on by the confectionary counter, or let the sharing box pass beneath your nose un-rummaged, and on to the next person. Life is… um… lighter without chocolate. You get a curious sense of triumphalism every time you tell someone you don’t eat chocolate and you watch their jaw drop and their eyebrows soar in utter disbelief. You have to find other more creative ways of rewarding or comforting yourself of course – and if you’re trying to be healthier as I am this time around, you need to find those rewards and comforts elsewhere than in food or drink. But, friends, it IS possible to live without chocolate.
And like any more seriously addictive substance, once your body – and your mind – get used to its absence, you won’t even miss it.