Molly Beats Chocolate Cravings and Loses Weight

chocolate addiction
Source: James Yu

Molly came to see me to lose weight. Like so many women who have the same goal, she had been trying many different kinds of diets. They all provided the same results: she would lose weight initially but after a few weeks of being able to control herself, Molly would begin to eat sweet in between meals and would soon regain weight. She felt stuck in this all too typical pattern.

She had done psychoanalysis in order to find out why she would cheat on her diet with chocolates. She had, with the help of her analysts, investigated the causes of her addiction to chocolate. She had explored her dreams, childhood memories and unconscious wishes but still it was to no avail, she was as anxious to eat chocolate as ever.

She had even forbidden herself the purchase of sweets and chocolate. However, she always managed to sneak out to eat chocolate, biscuits or anything that was sweet. Then she would feel guilty and get angry at herself, but the next day she would fall into the same trap.

I pointed out to her that she was feeling anxious because she had prohibited herself from eating sweets. As I explain in more detail in my book, The Diet of the Chinese Princess, prohibition of something usually increases desire. So the more you try to not eat something, the more you crave it.

“Maybe the opposite of this could be true”, I said.

I then asked her if she was willing to try an experiment for seven days. I explained that what I was about to ask her to do may appear to her somewhat counter intuitive. However, all her common sense and rational approaches hadn’t helped her to overcome her anxiety and cravings for sweets, especially for chocolate, so why not try something a little different?

Although Molly was a bit skeptical, she agreed to the experiment. She realized that seven days was a short time and the experiment might be worth a shot. Who knows, maybe it would help her. Since the deal was in her favor, we shook on it.

“Molly what I’m not going to do is to ask you to go on yet another diet.”, I explained. “I’m not going to ask you to not eat chocolate or even not to buy it. None of these common sense and rational solutions has worked for you. Instead I want you to really enjoy yourself during the next seven days. And I will tell you exactly what I mean by that. You say that you really like chocolate to the point that if you don’t eat it you become very anxious, lose control and eat too much and as a result wipe away any chance your diet has of helping you. Here’s what I want you to do: for the next seven days I want you to fully enjoy the sweet taste of chocolate. Every day.”

“But I’m going to gain weight.”, Molly protested.

“Well, you are already eating chocolate”, I explained. “Why not enjoy eating it for just seven days?”

Then I explained to Molly that because the act of prohibition generates anxiety and desire for chocolate, permitting it to herself could mean that she would be able to have more control over it.

“In fact, I prohibit you from losing any weight for the next seven days because I want you to enjoy eating the best quality chocolate you can find. Not just any kind. Only the best.”

We set up the next session for the following week. And so, a week later Molly came back to my office… with a smile. She told me that her anxiety had ‘miracously’ disappeared!

“I wasn’t preoccupied with chocolate.”, she said surprised. “What did you do to me Arthur?”

“It seems that the experiment was a good start.”, I answered.

“As you instructed, I ate a lot of chocolate. It was wonderful!” She explained that she had bought the best quality chocolate available in the city.

“And I suppose you gained some weight.”, I asked.

“No, I didn’t!”, she said quite amused.

“You mean to tell me that you ate a lot of the best quality chocolate – the kind that you like the most – for the past seven days and yet you didn’t gain any weight whatsoever? How the heck do you explain this Molly?”

“I have no idea! But I just loved this experiment of yours.”

I explained to her that our experience with pleasure has a lot to do with its quality and not with its duration or quantity. In other words, she had actually eaten less chocolate than before, but she had enjoyed it more each time. This fortuitous circumstance came about for two main reasons. First of all, she was free from the anxiety of her self-imposed prohibition. This allowed her to have more control over her sweet cravings. Since chocolates weren’t forbidden her cravings for it decreased automatically. Moreover, by buying and eating only the best quality, she had savored it more because she knew how valuable each piece was. The aroma and the taste of a high quality chocolate had added up to give her the full measure of pleasure she could derive.

Learning this new attitude towards chocolate and sweets allowed her to lose weight gradually. However, this time the key wasn’t that she was able to lose weight. The critical change was that she did so without dieting. She managed to lose weight gradually at the same time as she was enjoying her favorite sweet. She discovered that by allowing herself to eat chocolate whenever she wanted, she could also choose to avoid it.