My life used to be organized around bars of dark chocolate. I didn’t go anywhere without them. Dark chocolate was my universal solution. Stress at work? One square. Fatigue? One square. Feeling blue? One square. It seemed that every two hours there was some reason why I needed to dive into my purse and break off a piece.
I come from a family of sugar-loving Spaniards, most of whom are also diabetic. We come from a fishing village and eat lots of fish and vegetables, but our healthy diet did not protect us from the consequences of indulging in our great favorites like flan, turron, and tarta.
In my 40s I got a wake-up call that forced me to examine my habits: at my annual exam, my fasting blood sugar was 120 mg/dl and my doctor wanted it under 100. There was nothing I could do about my family history but lots I could do about my habits. I never ate breakfast, for example. I lived on coffee. I never cooked because I didn’t know how. And my career kept me late at work and often on the road. Who wouldn’t rely on a predictable friend like dark chocolate under such a strain!
When I started going to Suppers I was prepared to make changes, but not to totally give up chocolate. I went to meetings whenever I was in town, and learned to cook basic dishes. I found I actually enjoyed shopping and selecting the perfect piece of fish. It was a pleasure when I had the time to prepare the greens myself. I learned that if I cook a pot of lentils ahead of time, I can heat some for breakfast faster than most people can prepare a slice of toast. I learned that eating the lentils – to my amazement – immediately reduced my desire for coffee and even chocolate. I learned to notice how I feel after eating this or that. Now that I know how to observe myself it is clear that eating breakfast, reducing my coffee intake, and cooking simple meals have given me energy, alertness, stamina, and happier moods.
I would also like to say that there is another form of nourishment I discovered at Suppers. When someone else cooks for me or the leader sends me home with a jar of stew, it somehow feels even more sustaining than if I cooked it myself. I feel loved and supported all over again when I heat it up for breakfast the next morning.
Now here is the part I am sure you have all been waiting for. I did not have to entirely give up my dark chocolate. I am lucky because practicing nutritional harm reduction and making the other changes allowed me to lose my dependence without having to cut it out entirely. In the context of a healthier lifestyle, chocolate is a treat not a trigger for me. I know not everyone is so lucky, and for this I am sorry. Each individual must experiment to find out what his or her body will tolerate. For myself, it is now a great pleasure to have a little bit of chocolate because I enjoy it, not because I have to have it to get through my day.