Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Ultimate Chocolate Diet...Does it Really Exist?

Let's face it, this is the time of the year when everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) is talking about eating healthy, exercise and dieting. Although I never paid much attention to the notion of New Year's weight loss resolutions in the past, I have found that since passing the age of 35, I seem to be more affected by the slightest change in my eating habits. And now I, too, am thinking about a healthier start for 2014.

As we age, we develop our own set of beliefs about diet and exercise. We learn what is right for our bodies, depending on our height, metabolism and body shape.  But sometimes, unexpected changes happen. Changes to metabolism for both men and women, and even greater concerns for women, like hormonal changes and changes in body shape from pregnancy and child birth can cause us to struggle. So we have to find new strategies that fit within our belief system, or throw out our old system altogether and start fresh.

Over the years, I have developed rules for myself about diet and exercise, based on knowledge of my own body and from my experiences with staying fit. There are certain facts that I have come to understand and accept. For instance, I am only five-feet-one-inch tall.  So I know that I need to be eating less calories than a woman who is five-feet-eight-inches (yup, this is depressing for us short people! It took a while into my 20s to realize it, after watching many other taller women consume much more than me and wonder why I couldn't seem to do the same). 

Also, having been an avid jogger for the last 14 years, I know that when I commit to longer jogging sessions (i.e. at least 30 or 40 minutes of steady jogging), I get leaner and my legs look smaller.  But if I choose biking as my exercise, my quad muscles get very large and I appear less lean because of my height.  If I add weights to my workout routine, I see great results.

And when it comes to food, I know that I always gain weight when I eat too many carbohydrates. I realize this may not be the case for everyone. But for me, it is. So one serving of bread OR rice a day is about the most that I will have. When I start to add in other servings, I have to be ready to increase my exercise time.

But what I also know about myself, is that I can lose weight while eating some chocolate every day.  I have managed it many times over the years, and I do believe it can work for everyone. I am not claiming to be an expert in weight loss or nutrition, because I am not.  I just want to share what has worked for me over the last 20 years, since I started eating chocolate every single day.

So if you really want to lose or maintain your weight while consuming chocolate daily and are looking for a new way to do it, you could try incorporating my rules into your daily routine and see if they work for you (I am not guaranteeing anything, you will need to find what works for you best!). 
Here they are:

1. Make changes to the food that you consume. Look at the rest of your diet and be sure that it is as healthy as it can be. Perhaps reduce your carbohydrates, or sugar or saturated fats (depending on what works for you), from your meals and snacks.

Tip: One easy change is to stop eating the 'fruit bottom' of your yogurt. The fruit mixture on the bottom has all sorts of added sugar in it (and other nasty things like modified cornstarch)! You will still taste a little of the fruit flavour in the yogurt that sits on top. Also, be sure to eat some fresh fruit or vegetables with that yogurt. The point is, do not eat unnecessary calories if you want to consume chocolate every day.
2. Plan the time of day when you will eat chocolate.  It will give you something to look forward to every day. What's more, by setting a rule for yourself, you may be likely to follow it. And by not designating a time? Well, you might just end up eating chocolate morning, noon and night!

3. Try out healthier chocolates, less processed chocolates and chocolates with higher %s of cacao (dark chocolate). See if you can find a new craving to replace your same-ol'-sweet-tooth cravings. I have always found that when I consistently eat dark chocolate (70% or higher) for at least a week, I reduce my overall sugar cravings.

4. Sit and savour your chocolate. If you take the time to enjoy it and eat it slowly, you are less likely to go back for more.  I know that when I am busy and quickly shovel chocolate in my mouth, I end up wanting more later in the day because I barely remember eating the first serving.

5. Exercise! I recommend 15 to 20 minutes of steady cardio (i.e. running, biking, skipping, etc. without stopping) in order to burn off the chocolate that you have consumed. If you think you do not have the time, make time.  I have to remind myself of this often, when things get busy with my business or with my kids.

Tip: If you work in an office, use your lunch hour to your advantage! Go for a walk or jog at lunchtime, then you can focus on your family in the mornings and at night. Or do crunches in front of your favourite t.v. show, instead of snacking. If you have no other equipment to use and cannot afford a gym membership - get a skipping rope and make space in your living room.  You can skip while watching t.v. at night for the first 20 minutes of a one-hour show, then rest and enjoy the show for the last 40 minutes.

6. Expend Energy to Create Energy - This has been my motto for many years. When you are feeling your lowest, laziest and most tired, get up and exercise. Drag yourself up and just start, even if your eyes are closing and your shoulders are slumping.  You will find that after a few minutes, you will get energized. This also works for mood.  Ladies, if you find yourself having a day where you cannot stop crying over the littlest things, go for a jog or some other form of cardio. It will improve your mood. And it will burn off some chocolate!
So that is my "Ultimate Chocolate Diet". It works for me (when I follow my own rules). There will always be times when I slip and watch the scale go up - doesn't that happen to all of us?  I am just getting past a phase like that now (the good ol' Halloween-to-Holidays eating season). But I have buckled down since January 1st, and yet I am still enjoying a variety of chocolate every day, and I am seeing great results.

Once you are in your 30s, have children or are busy in your career, it is not as easy to be consistent. The key is to find your own rhythm and the strategies that work best for you.

Good luck with 2014 and may you enjoy all the chocolate that the year brings!

Here are a few 'healthier' chocolates that I have enjoyed this year:

Are you currently eating 60% to 70% dark chocolate,
but want to further reduce your sugar intake?
Step it up to a 75%! This Chocolat Stella bar is a good choice,
and it is organic too.

The CacaoCookie is my own creation. With very minimal cane sugar in it, no butter, eggs nor flour, but all the feeling of a dark chocolate-covered cookie, it has worked for me many times during times of weight loss. You can e-mail me at for more information.

Kaka'wa Cocoa Beans are handcrafted in Austin, Texas. 
My sister brought them back for me after she attended a conference
there and I am so thankful that she did!  These are delicious, and
with a cocoa bean as the centre, they are packed full of antioxidants too.

If you are looking for chocolate with no CANE SUGAR, look no further than Mast Brothers Dark Chocolate with Crown Maple.  This is a 70% dark chocolate bar and the only two ingredients are: cacao and maple sugar. It is tasty, smooth and has a wonderful toasted maple flavour. Plus, there is no added cocoa butter, fat or soy lecithin, artificial flavours or colours or any other additional ingredients, so you can feel good about the chocolate that you are eating.


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