In a recent Pickles comic, Opal commented that she loved October because it was the one time of year when you can buy a big bag of candy without feeling like people are judging you.
I laughed, but it also got me thinking.
Do you also indulge in bulk candy buying while you can? If so, you’re not alone. Americans are expected to spend $2.6 billion on candy for the season, or about $25/person. Interestingly, candy corn is the top seller, but it’s followed by chocolate in the form of Snickers, Kit Kat, Reese’s, and M&M’s.
Now, some of this candy goes to trick-or-treaters, but let’s be honest. A lot of it doesn’t. A lot of it is put out in offices or at parties, gets eaten at home before Halloween, or gets eaten by parents.
Why do we go through all this chocolate? I know it’s often for comfort, and I’ve done that myself at times.
The question is: when you use chocolate that way, is it still a treat, or are you tricking yourself by thinking it will make you feel better?
Notice Your Chocolate Habits
To understand if you’re tricking or treating yourself, pay attention to your habits around chocolate.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Impulse: Are you reaching for chocolate on impulse, because you happen to see it out in a bowl or the checkout line at the store? If so, odds are you’re not going to be very mindful about how you eat it.
Comfort: Is the chocolate only for comfort, to fill some need that hasn’t been met in another way? If this is the case, does the chocolate make that need go away?
Quality: Are you going for the cheapest option available or high-quality chocolate? If you make the cheap choice, consider how much of a treat it is.
Eating: When you eat chocolate, how much do you taste it? Are you doing other things while you eat it, or are you focused on truly enjoying it?
Knowing those answers will help clarify how much of a treat the chocolate is.
Ethics of Chocolate
I started thinking about these questions earlier this year, after learning more about the ethics of the cocoa industry.
I hadn’t fully realized how much child labor comes into play with many chocolate companies, including big names like Godiva, Lindt, and Hershey. Even though Hershey, along with Mars and Nestlé, promised to end this practice, they haven’t gotten very far with it.
Fair trade chocolate, on the other hand, has standards that ban forced labor and child labor.
Plus, chocolate is being threatened by climate change. Buying fair trade chocolate supports cocoa farmers. Getting real wages allows those farmers to adapt and innovate in the face of a changing environment.
What I’ve Found for Myself
I suddenly started feeling uneasy about the amount of chocolate I eat. Not that I’m going through a whole Halloween-sized bag a day, but I often have 2-3 (or even 4) little pieces of chocolate in the evening, usually Dove mini dark chocolate squares.
And then I realized that Dove chocolates are made by Mars. Sigh.
I also noticed how much of my chocolate consumption was pure habit. At a certain time of the evening, I’d reach for a piece, just because. I wasn’t pausing to ask if I needed or wanted it. I also wasn’t taking a lot of time to savor it. I simply ate it in a couple of bites, and that was it.
I realized I was tricking myself in multiple ways.
Making Chocolate a Treat
That’s when I decided to make some changes.
One decision I made was to start getting some fair trade chocolate. I’ve opted for the Equal Exchange Chocolate Minis.
Of course, this kind of chocolate is also more expensive, but in a way, that reminds me of the other change, to be more mindful when eating it.
Knowing I paid more makes me pause to see if I really want the chocolate. I also make a point of eating it more slowly and taking smaller bites, so I can savor it. And I appreciate knowing that those chocolates are coming from a company I can respect.
In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t made a complete switch. I still have some Dove chocolates mixed with fair trade ones. I figure the important part is to do what I can and start making a change.
Chocolate is One of Life’s Pleasures
I hope other chocolate companies get on board eliminating child labor from their cocoa production, but I also don’t want anyone to feel shamed or pressured about what chocolate to eat. That approach always seems to backfire, anyway.
Instead, it might help to simply remember that chocolate truly is one of life’s pleasures, so if you’re going to have it, you might as well fully savor it! Eating chocolate this way keeps it a treat, and that’s a good approach for Halloween or any other day.