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Existentialism and Chocolate

June 5, 2014

Most evenings, I treat myself to a Dove dark chocolate, the ones with a brief message inside the wrapper. Most of the times they’re inspirational sayings, or phrases promoting the delights of chocolate, but a recent one was a bit different.

“Calories only exist if you count them.”

Have any of you thought that before? Or how about the idea that broken cookies don’t have calories, or at least the crumbs don’t? Or that donut holes are calorie-free because, after all, a hole doesn’t have anything in it? Many of us play these games at one point or another, giving ourselves permission to eat things we don’t think we should be eating.

No matter what we tell ourselves, we all know that calories don’t require us to acknowledge them in order to add up. This is not quantum physics, where the act of observation can change the outcome.

We also know that cookies have the same number of calories no matter how many pieces they’re in, and that the donut hole isn’t really a “hole”, although it will have fewer calories than the whole donut.

If we know this, what’s the harm in these amusing phrases? If you truly recognize them as silly anecdotes and don’t act on them, probably nothing. But if you do use them to justify eating something that you’re not hungry for, it could become a problem.

The other drawback is that they can put you in more of a “diet” mentality. If you start thinking about whether to count the calories in cookie fragments, or donut holes, or cake crumbs, or chocolate, that leads you down the path of fretting about calories in general. And personally, if I’m preparing to eat a lovely piece of dark chocolate, I don’t want to sit around wondering in an existential way, “If a package has nutrition information but I don’t read it, do those calories and grams of fat/protein/carbohydrates count?”

Instead, I’ll stick with the approach I took with my chocolate, which was to crumple up the wrapper, throw it in the trash, and enjoy my treat, knowing that the calories would sort themselves out without any help from me. 

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