As someone who has a lot of things in life, I'm not the easiest person to shop for. But a couple of months ago a friend of mine gave me a present I truly appreciated: A gold foil wrapped box of Godiva chocolates. It is among my favorite brands, a true luxury item, and chocolate is one of my favorites treats.
The problem was that, at the time, I was in a mode of not consuming any processed or refined sugars. I wanted all of my sugars to come from plants. I didn't want any chocolate anywhere around me.
Still, I had this gorgeous box, and from a good friend I didn't want to insult. So I announced that I would save the gift for a special occasion — a celebration, or a major holiday. I was also traveling at the time, so I stuffed the box into one of my suitcases. It still had a bow wrapped around it.
That box ended up going around the world with me while I was on my Reboot with Joe Juice Diet Book Tour. I would unpack it at each new destination, and then repack it when I hit the road again. There were times when I thought it would be right to open it — when I got a bit of promising business news, or when I was having a great time seeing friends. But the longer I waited the more it made me feel good about myself. And with the holidays on the way, I decided I could hold out for the big one.
Along the way people asked me why I kept this temptation in front of me. It was a tough question to answer, because sometimes it was like torture. But that box became a kind of talisman, a symbol of my self-discipline. And I got used to it, so that after a while the effect really did dull my desires, sort of like becoming acclimatized to a new altitude.
In the end I held out for six weeks, right until Christmas. I was now ready for my present. So I carefully opened the box — only to find that the individual chocolates had melted down into one block of paper-infused chocolate. I took one bite and tossed out the rest.
The Lesson I Learned From A Chocolate Bar
But I didn't toss out the object lesson here, of delayed gratification. A lot of studies have shown that people who are able to delay rewards are typically more successful in life. For people who are concerned with what they eat, this is particularly significant, since 'food urges' for sweet or salty snacks typically pass in a matter of minutes. Delay that gratification long enough and the urge goes away.
I also didn't toss out the chocolates — not until they had meshed with their paper packages into a gooey block. And that is another object lesson.
Never Say Never
I have always thought that 'never' is the worst word you can use when it comes to cleaning up your diet. If I thought that I could never have another bowl of chocolate ice cream for the rest of my life as a condition for the good nutrition of drinking vegetable and fruit juice, I'm not sure I would sign up.
My philosophy: As long as you are conscious of the decision, and it's not a knee-jerk reaction to an unhealthy urge, I believe that you can— and should — occasionally reward yourself with food from what I call 'the fun part of town.' Sure, there are exceptions to this for some people, especially those with serious food addictions.
But for most of us, when it comes to dipping into that box of chocolates, there is nothing wrong with a little indulging.