I have a confession to make: I’m a chocolate addict. Dark chocolate in particular, milk chocolate as a matter of course, and sugar in general.
On my About page, among other fascinating facts about myself, I claim to often be eating “vast quantities of dark chocolate.” It sounds like an exaggeration, doesn’t it? If you consider a 4.5 oz bar of Hershey’s Special Dark every day a vast quantity, then it’s not. Such a bar lists a serving size as 5 blocks, and there’s 3 servings in a bar. I often-though not always- end up eating a whole bar during the course of a day. That’s 540 calories, 36 grams of fat (21 saturated), and 57 grams of sugar.
There are days when I catch myself breaking off yet another piece of chocolate deliciousness (sometimes before noon!), popping the pieces into my mouth like Percosets, and I stop and wonder: how did I get here?
But upon reflection, I realize that this is a place in which I’ve always been. Sugar has been an ever-present ingredient of my life, beginning with the cereals I ate as a child. Breakfast was invariably a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, Fruit Loops, Cocoa Puffs, Boo Berry, Lucky Charms, Sugar Smacks, Cookie Crisp, Captain Crunch, or any number of other sugary concoctions you could put in a box. This is not a judgment on my mother, who fed us this stuff without thought; back then, in the 70s, people weren’t so microscopic about what they put in their mouths. Sugar wasn’t quite the villain that it is now (unfortunately).
On top of this, there was the penny candy we often bought at the convenience store down the street. Squirrels, Swedish Fish, Pixie Stix (my sister had a strange habit of dusting a slice of bologna with this sweet powder), Charleston Chews, those candy dots on paper, Ring Pops. Popsicles, Fudgsicles, and Kool-Aid in the summer. And everyday, my dad would be commanded to stop at Cumbie’s on the way home from work to pick up milk, bread, and ice cream (there were two parents, five kids-including three teenage boys- and usually an extra person or two living in my house; we went through stuff fast). There was always a half gallon of ice cream in the freezer, year round. That was our bedtime treat. Sugar morning, noon and night.
These habits continued into my teen years when, theoretically, I could make more choices for myself. I was thoroughly addicted by now, and once I had my own money to spend, a lot of it was spent on candy. Soda wasn’t such a big problem from a sugar perspective, but I did have a pretty serious addiction to Diet Coke-that’s another story. As it is, the icky kid candy gave way to candy bars: Hershey’s, Chunky Bars, Snickers, Milky Way; my love affair with chocolate began. Packaged goodies like Suzie Q’s, Hostess Cupcakes, Oreos, and Table Talk Pies made their way into the mix, as well. Because of my youth, I could get away with this without becoming seriously obese; I also had to walk or bike anywhere I wanted to go. Mom and Dad were not the chauffeurs so many are now. I was slim, but by no means skinny. The pear shape I’ve always battled was enhanced, right into my twenties.
By then I’d become more aware of how bad sugar was, on one’s weight, complexion, and health in general. But could I stop? Hardly. I was in the habit of sitting down late at night to watch NYPD Blue after a long night of waitressing, and polishing off a whole package of mini chocolate chip muffins. Or a box of Entenmman’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. Or a pint of ice cream. I stayed slim by madly running up and down the endless staircases in the restaurant I worked at, with heavy trays of food on my shoulder.
By my thirties, the party was over. I had a desk job where I sat on my butt for 7 or 8 hours a day. My husband and I often hiked, walked or biked, and that helped to keep the weight down. But internally? Havoc. I was tired a lot. Headaches. Yeast infections. Menstrual cycles that became more nightmarish with every year. You get the idea. I looked fine on the outside, but inside I was a mess.
I’ve since tried to cut out as much sugar as possible-except dark chocolate. It’s the one thing I cannot give up. I console myself with the research on the health benefits of dark chocolate, but I don’t think health professionals would recommend the amounts I consume. And the healthier chocolate is 70-80% cocoa (which I do like), while the Special Dark I prefer is a measly 55%.
Ah, well. I could be an alcoholic. Or addicted to pills, or nicotine, or sniffing glue. Too bad I’m not addicted to kale, but that would just be weird.
What’s your naughty addiction?