Many years ago, I committed myself to losing weight. The key strategy was to write about everything dealing with eating, exercise and losing weight.
During that time, I flew to Hershey, Pa., to give a speech. This is what I wrote back then.
At the Philadelphia terminal, I skipped the ice cream, hot dog, candy bar, beer, french fries, sandwich and dessert that I would have had in the past. The final test is the Hershey bar now in my briefcase.
I’m staying in Hershey, so the hotel provides Hershey bars to all guests. I thought about the Hershey bar as soon as I received it. It was free.
In fact, I have two of them, one from another guest who passed it up. I haven’t reached the point yet of passing up free Hershey bars.
The Hershey bars are in my briefcase. I know they’re there. Unfortunately, I can’t get the thought out of my mind. The candy bar is immediately available. I could eat it. No one would know.
I love chocolate, and this is the chocolate capital of the world. The Hershey bar is almost talking to me, or am I talking to it? It beckons me based on my memory of how satisfying chocolate can be.
In the past, the temptation would have been overwhelming. I would have eaten both candy bars within half an hour of going to my hotel room. At least I can say I’ve been here for over an hour without touching them, and I have plenty of room for dessert.
Those two Hershey bars make writing so useful.
Without this conversation, I would be helpless in combating a 40-year history of enjoying chocolate. I would rationalize the reasons for eating those candy bars.
I might say I deserve them, or I did very well today and a piece of chocolate won’t hurt, or I’m lonely away from home, or I need the energy, or I’m bored, or I’m cold, or simply that I want them.
It would take only two minutes to grab one, rip open the wrapper and demolish it. I could probably break that time record in devouring the first one.
And then, after four minutes of indulging, after four minutes of ecstasy, I would feel awful the entire night and some of tomorrow, telling myself I had no discipline, no strength of commitment, no ability to even withstand a Hershey bar.
No one is here to offer the candy bars to me. No one is suggesting I eat them. No one really knows I have two candy bars right now.
And, yet, the Hershey bars talk to me across a 40-year history. They have a silent conversation that I have created inside myself.
The Hershey bar has great significance for me. It stands for all the temptations I face in living up to my health program. It presents a picture of how easily I can dupe myself, how easily I can rationalize eating stupidly.
It is one thing to walk by the ice cream and french fries. That is an accomplishment. But beyond that, there is a higher level of discipline in not touching free candy bars.
When they’re free, it takes away some of the support to stay healthy, and it makes temptation that much easier. It’s like a buffet: You aren’t charged any more for having another dessert.
If I could dissect the chocolate into its ingredients, I think I would do better. If I thought sugar, milk, cocoa butter and lecithin because chocolate is mostly sugar and fat — sugar and fat, not chocolate. If I could see sugar and fat when I see chocolate, I know I could resist the temptation a lot more easily.
But I still get overwhelmed with chocolate, lovely tasting, smooth-textured, sweet-flavored and very satisfying. I know only that without this conversation, those chocolate bars would have been gone long, long ago. With this conversation, at least I have a chance.
The bottom line: To avoid a problem, talk about it. The more talk, the more discipline. I never ate the chocolate. I just couldn’t.