What I Wish Everyone Knew About Chocolate & Weight Loss

Written by Will Clower, PhD
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I give “chocolate eating lessons” all over the country. It’s fun. I put chocolate out there as a solution to our weight and health problems—as a virtue, not a vice. I bring Godiva, we all eat, and walk away understanding the distinction between quantity and quality, and how to make that work for you in everyday life. In fact, sometimes spas ask me out to keynote an event with these lessons.

During a recent summer, one particular spa in Austin, Texas put out press releases to announce the chocolate event, and an editor at Rodale saw it. I received an email from her, and followed up with a phone call about three seconds later. The next thing I knew I was writing a book on chocolate.

This book isn’t just about chocolate’s Mesoamerican origins, that it was actually used as a currency (four cocoa beans for a rabbit dinner, 10 for a lady of the evening, etc.), or how modern processing has fundamentally altered its form, taste, color, antioxidant content, and uses. These are all really interesting, but the book I wrote ties chocolate directly to weight loss.

Let me tell you, this viewpoint is not an easy sell. One of the biggest hurdles is our dysfunctional culture of "health," which has you believe that chocolate and weight loss are incompatible. Or that I'm the author of yet another round of faddish scheme designed to prey on people who don’t have the time, inclination, or critical mass of neurons not to be duped by gimmicky gyps that could never possibly make sense.

Our knee-jerk response has a logical flow that goes something like this:

  1. Chocolate is candy.
  2. Candy is a problem for your weight.
  3. Therefore chocolate is a problem for your weight.

So my biggest challenge in Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight is to confront this cultural misconception head on. I get that it just takes time. The same thing happened after I first started writing on health (about a million years ago), by listing the Mediterranean approach of the French.

They do not eat low fat foods, avoid wine, drink diet drinks, “hit the gym,” avoid carbs, drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, and yet they’re thinner than us, healthier, and outlive us all. I was dismissed as everything from dangerous to irresponsible to crazy.

After all, how could an entire culture of people possibly violate our cherished assumptions and eat creams and cheeses and butters and breads and wines and chocolates every day and not be as overweight as we are—who eat low fat, low carb, “cheese food,” substitute egg, zero calorie everything?

Now, after 13 years, we learn that fats aren’t bad (bad fats are bad), carbs aren’t bad (bad carbs are bad), eggs are great for you, and diet sodas are associated with even more weight gain than regular sodas! So cheese, bread, wine, and yes even chocolate are not the dietary Darth Vader we were told. Like I said.

So now, I’m writing about chocolate and weight loss and it feels like déjà vu all over again from our dysfunctional culture of health. It coaches us to believe that eating anything wonderful, such as chocolate, must be associated with terrible health outcomes. We intuitively sense that weight loss food must be as bland as cardboard.

By contrast, delicious makes-you-moan-out-loud food must make you fat. This perverse puritanical sense of things holds that only pain leads to good, and good only leads to pain. How messed up is that?

When you eat chocolate, and lose weight doing it, you break that rule. In fact, you remake that rule. So eat your chocolate, and do it every day. Do you have to keep quantity in control? Of course! But that applies to all food, all drink, all everything. Duh. Do you have to keep quality in control? Of course! But that also applies to all food, all drink, all everything. Double duh.

So eat your chocolate and change this culture of health for the better. Do it well, do it in control, and that former “guilty pleasure” just becomes your pleasure. The first step to doing that is to let go of the cultural coaching that told you it was bad for you in the first place.

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