I saw these words on a bumper sticker of a car that I passed as our family was driving home from vacation, and they immediately caught my interest. My first instinct was to catch a glimpse of the driver in order to see how healthy he or she looked (answer: not terribly). After all, isn’t it a rather dubious claim that one could eat chocolate in order to lose weight? But of course that’s where the “ask me how” part comes in. Whatever issues we struggle with—health, finances, relationships—we’re always on the lookout for an expert who can promise a solution that doesn’t require us to change anything about ourselves. While chocolate can be part of a healthy and balanced diet, people who eat it to excess due to sugar cravings are likely to put on some pounds. What if there was a way to get one’s “fix” without any consequences? It’s in our nature to seek out purported solutions of this kind, but we know deep down that they don’t really work. Resolving our problems involves making some tough choices. For this reason, there’s another group of people that argues that we just need to toughen up. “You want to lose weight?” they say. “Stop eating so much!” In fact, we tend to be tough like this on people who struggle with things we find easy, while at the same time seeking out miracle cures for our own particular weaknesses.
The reality is that while solving problems does require meaningful change, it also requires practical strategies and support, not just toughness. Eating right, budgeting our finances, or successfully interacting with people are all skills that require practice and knowledgeable guidance to acquire. The good news is that when you’re willing to commit to meaningful change, the battle is essentially already won. After you start eating better, you not only feel healthier and more energetic, but you enjoy your experience of eating more, and you actually find it difficult to go back to your old habits. It’s not a matter of ongoing will power, but of initial willingness. One client of mine, for example, called me up to ask for a healthy alternative to caffeinated soda. He wanted to have the extra energy but without the negative effects on his health. I had to explain that there is no healthy form of a “quick fix”—that the only healthy thing to do was to give his body what it really needed. In this case, that meant extra rest, such as a short nap during the day. To his credit, he was willing to give it a try, and started substituting the real rest for the soda. After a week, he had more energy than before, without needing to sacrifice his health, and had lost the craving for caffeine.
Can you really lose weight eating chocolate? Of course, as long as it’s just one part of a balanced diet of whole foods. But my emphasis on eating more whole foods is not a “toughen up” type of recommendation. If you are really eating healthy, not only will you love it, but any junk food that you used to crave will no longer have the same hold over you. All that’s required is the willingness to take that first step towards real, positive change.