A few days ago I read an article that highlighted the results of a study on thin models in chocolate advertisements. The research showed that even the most restrained consumers (i.e. those on diets) over-indulge when they see thin models advertising chocolate.
This got me to thinking about chocolate and how easy it is to over-indulge during the lead-up to celebratory times of the year, such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Valentine's Day. I am usually at the point where I have trouble pulling my pants over my thighs before I realize that I have been over-indulging. I often wonder why that sweet-tooth has crept up on me again, then realize that it is because I am absolutely surrounded in sweets. Well, I am a chocolatier, cake decorator and baker, so I am usually surrounded in sweets, but not to the level that the holidays can bring on.
In the lead-up to Christmas, every step through the grocery store, pharmacy or mall presents a new sweet temptation that is not normally there during the rest of the year. This year alone, I have seen a release of new dessert products like never before, such as the President's Choice Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Lollipops or PC's mini cupcake chocolates. Who can resist throwing such goodies into the cart with the rest of the weekly grocery order?
We are also surrounded in sweets through television and print media. Morning news programs, daytime talk shows and national magazines use this time of year to display images of delicious products or recipes that can make a holiday dinner extra-special. Even if one does not read the recipes, it is impossible to get away from the images.
Interestingly, the same article also pointed out what I have known for years: Women instantly want to eat chocolate when they see a picture of it or simply hear it mentioned in conversation. The article said that the researchers "...also found the women had a strong impulse to consume chocolate when presented with negative messaging - including warnings that chocolate could lead to obesity." (Ref) So even when being told we might get fat from eating chocolate, all we hear is the word "chocolate" and our mouths begin to salivate.
So for a chocolate lover, what is the solution? Well, here is one major tip to help stop the annual weight gain this holiday season, while still enjoying your favourite chocolate:
Eat only what you truly enjoy and
do not consume unwanted calories.
So what does that mean exactly? Well, here are my five 'tips within the tip':
1. Do not eat what you do not like. If you are a chocolate lover and only like chocolate desserts, do not add that slice of apple pie to your dessert plate. And if you are out enjoying dinner and that sweet vanilla cake arrives at your table, pass it along to some who might like it better and think about that special dark chocolate truffle or chocolate bar that you might have in the cupboard for a special occasion. Then, just wait the evening out and treat yourself at home. Because what will happen if you eat the vanilla cake that you do not really want? You'll still eat chocolate when you get home because you were craving it in the first place! So instead of consuming twice the calories, wait it out and you will be proud of yourself for your self-control.
2. Pack a small piece of your favourite chocolate in your purse or coat pocket for every event - even the company Christmas party. Again, if you are a chocolate lover, you cannot count on the served dessert being chocolaty. This will save you from consuming those unwanted calories.
3. Ignore your friends' and family's criticism. If you opt out of the stuffing or ham or mashed potatoes because you never really liked it anyway, just so you could eat a bigger piece of chocolate cheesecake later, who cares what other people think? They will eventually come to accept your eating habits, so just ignore their comments on the missing ham until they accept it as your normal behaviour.
I am one of those people who lives in fear of lumpy mashed potatoes because of one childhood experience that I will never forget, so I just don't eat them anymore. And I recall a lot of the comments that people have made to me over the years when my plate has looked sparse because mashed potatoes were missing from it. Some people said things like: "Oh what, are you on the Atkins diet now?" and "Are we not eating carbs anymore?" or my favourite, "Watch out, you might become an anorexic" Funny, they were always quiet when they saw me eat a man-sized piece of chocolate cheesecake after dinner. Unless to comment on the unfairness of my great metabolism that I can eat dessert and get away with it. Um, it is not metabolism, it is because I skipped the mashed potatoes!
Now all that said, the same goes the other way: if you are a fan of mashed potatoes and prefer them to chocolate, then eat the potatoes and ignore the chocolate! And then ignore your friends' comments later when you choose not to eat dessert.
4. Wait for the good stuff. Hold off each day as long as possible until you get something that you really want to eat. If your husband is eating a cinnamon roll for breakfast, do not give in and have one yourself because it smells good (unless your true love is cinnamon rolls!). Wait until your lunch break when you can visit your favourite cafe and pick up that dark chocolate bar that you always enjoy. Or even try to wait until evening time to have that slice of rich, chocolate dessert. If you give in to your sweet tooth first thing in the morning, you will be giving in all day and consuming more sugar and more calories.
5. Forget the homemade Christmas cookies. Those things are never chocolaty enough anyway! If you are a chocolate-lover like me, you will never be satisfied with the homemade shortbread's with jelly in the middle or the sugar cookies. Just choose the one that is most chocolaty (to make your host or grandmother happy) and wait until you can get your hands on something more chocolaty at home.
6. If you have to, make a list of your absolute favourite desserts and chocolates this Christmas season. So that next time, you will think before you eat those unwanted calories. If you love gourmet chocolate truffles made with real cream, just ignore that Pot of Gold box that is sitting on the buffet table. You know you are just going to end up grossed out because you accidentally took the sweet, orange chocolate cream with the white icing centre. Wait it out, and eat from your special truffle stash at home. And if you do not have a special chocolate stash, stay up a little later and make up a batch of cream truffles (and try not to eat the entire batch before it sets or while you are rolling them into balls!). Trust me, you will be proud of yourself for waiting. And you can freeze the extras so that you do have a special stash the next time.
Now, if I can just follow my own tips, this will be a not-so-sweet sweet Christmas season!
Full reference for the article mentioned above:
Chocolate adverts portraying ‘ideal’ thin models may tempt even the most restrained of consumers to overindulge, suggest researchers.