Note: With Halloween coming up, I thought I’d do a short series of posts about some of the messages I’ve found in Dove chocolate wrappers. While I often enjoy the messages, a few of them make me uneasy, particularly ones related to chocolate, so I thought I’d write about them.
“Chocolate won’t let you down.”
When I read this in my chocolate wrapper, I didn’t smile, although I’m guessing that was the intent. Perhaps I think too much about food, but my first reaction was how much this type of messaging reinforces disordered relationships with food. I wish I could take this more lightly, but unfortunately, I’ve found that even when things like this are stated humorously, the impact can be far from harmless.
In this case, saying that a type of food won’t let you down seems to imply that when things aren’t going well, your best option is to go to that particular food because other avenues of comfort aren’t reliable. And in a way, it’s true. Provided you have the financial resources and access to the food, it won’t let you down. It will be there for you rain or shine, whether or not you’ve gotten dressed, showered, brushed your teeth, etc.
But while chocolate (or other food) may provide some initial comfort, it doesn’t tend to last, and from that perspective, it will let you down. Once it’s gone, it hasn’t given you much in the way of additional resources or strength to get through whatever your tough time is. Additionally, you might even feel guilty for eating chocolate, and if that happens, any benefit is usually lost.
What if you could find other things to turn to that would give more lasting comfort, things that also won’t let you down? Perhaps a friend or loved one that you know will always be there for you, creative outlets that allow you to express what you’re feeling, playing with a beloved pet, or maybe losing yourself in the beauty of nature. Using these other means is not always easy, of course, which is why chocolate, or food in general, is so tempting.
I also realize that people are tempted by chocolate not just in complex situations but sometimes in a single moment of stress. If that’s the case, eating it probably does help you relax a little, enough to get back to whatever you were doing. In those situations, while it’s true that eating can calm you down, so can breathing exercises, or simple stretches, or going for a short walk.
I’m not advocating against chocolate, because I love it, too; I wouldn’t be eating the Dove chocolates to begin with if that weren’t the case. And a piece or two is not the worst thing you could use to relax. But thinking of chocolate or any food as the only thing that won’t let you down will probably not make you happy in the long term; finding other means of comfort that will provide more lasting benefit is likely a better option.
Additional: The Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program can help find ways other than eating of coping with stress, loneliness, boredom, etc. Learn more here or at www.amihungry.com.