Beyond the Diet Mentality: Chocolate, Pleasure and Eating What You Want


Getting Past the Diet Mentality – Normal Eating

It’s that time of year again when thoughts turn to red hearts, cards sent, given to or received from loved ones, and, of course, chocolate.

How did chocolate become the symbol of love on Valentine’s Day?

carrie underwood chocolate quote eating what you wantAccording to at least one story I found on the Internet, the Aztecs viewed chocolate as an aphrodisiac. Long after chocolate made its way to Europe, the Cadbury chocolate company made the first-ever Valentine’s candy gift box.  And so a tradition was born.

In my book, it’s a lovely tradition, too. I think of food and, yes, chocolate as love. Love of wonderful tastes, love of enjoyment, love of treating yourself well.

Weight Worries, the Diet Mentality, and the Fear of Chocolate

Of course, in these days of weight worries and the diet mentality, tying together the words food, chocolate, and enjoyment is a tough sell for many. A typical notion is that if we want to take care of ourselves, we need to use food only as fuel. And for many, that translates to kale, brown rice, green juice and the like.

Chocolate? Horrors. It only passes the lips when it’s eaten guiltily, hopefully without anyone seeing. Or, okay, maybe if it’s 75% dark chocolate. Even then, there are often worries that “I can’t eat just one.”

So how do we start to move past fear of chocolate so that we can eat it in, as Geneen Roth says, full integrity with ourselves? So that we’re not eating it with any feelings of guilt or failure but because we really want it? And hence eating it in a way that truly supports us both physically and psychologically?

Where you’re starting from is key to answering that. This post I wrote a few years ago describes the different decisions about eating chocolate that a person might make on the journey from the diet mentality to mindful, intuitive eating.

Beyond Emotional Eating

When we talk about chocolate as love, we are talking about emotional eating. That phrase has a negative connotation but in reality emotional eating is part of eating supportively. It’s using food for pleasure when we are celebrating, such as on Valentine’s Day, or when we are looking for some pleasure in our lives.

It only becomes problematic when we don’t have any other way to add pleasure to our lives. The point I always like to make, however, is that if you feel restricted around food — that you can’t eat what you want — other things are going to have a hard time competing with food.

The bubble bath just doesn’t appeal when chocolate is calling your name. It’s the old forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest story, told time and again by dieters the world around.

What Else Gives You Pleasure?

Take some time this week, though, to think about what else gives you pleasure.

  • For the busy, busy, it might be quiet time, focused on yourself.
  • Or maybe it’s a relaxing walk with friend or family, enjoying the outside and the company.
  • Or maybe it’s a pedicure — the old standby that many people pooh, pooh, but in the middle of February in a cold climate, it’s a pretty darn good pleasure.

If you have a hard time finding what truly gives you pleasure, try jotting down ideas you discover as you go through your days.  By this time next Valentine’s, you might find you have a whole list of things and chocolate, while still good, doesn’t take up the same amount of brain acreage that it has in the past.

That is, if you’ve given yourself permission to eat it when you want it.

My favorite phrase in this regard is that you also just might find you don’t want it half as much as you thought you did — and when you do eat it, you may find you only want half as much as you thought you did.

On that note, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. And if no one gives you chocolate, and you want some, give it to yourself.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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One response to “Beyond the Diet Mentality: Chocolate, Pleasure and Eating What You Want”

  1. Sarah says:

    I consider chocolate (a small treat anyway) as a reward after completing a task, after finishing my morning jog or doing a hard training session. Chocolates do not always have to make us feel guilty afterwards. After all, they symbolize pleasure, comfort and love.

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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