Beating a Chocolate Addiction

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how it’s hard for most professionals such as doctors and dietitians to shift from the old paradigm of low fat diets and exercise as the way to lose weight and get healthy. And that all those corporations or individuals with a vested interest in our food, pharmaceutical and health care industries will resist a change to the status quo. As an ex-chocolatier and the owner of an artisan chocolate company, I had no intention of giving up chocolate forever. However, a one-month experiment to cut out all sugar from my diet in 2012, led me to close my business. After initially shifting to making and selling fructose-free chocolates as a healthier alternative for those with a fructose intolerance, I discovered LCHF and made the decision to close Wild Patch Chocolates.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth then chocolate is probably the one thing you think you will miss the most if you decide to go low carb or sugar-free. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve searched for chocolate that is sweetened with a healthier alternative than regular sugar (sucrose).

When I decided to remove all sugar from my diet I didn’t realise how many hidden sugars were in the everyday foods I consumed as well as the more obvious sources of sugar in sweet foods and drinks. In the past, whenever I’d tried to improve my diet, I’d unknowingly increase my fructose consumption by eating more fresh and dried fruit. One day, I heard Sarah Wilson interviewed on the radio. Between making batches of chocolates, I downloaded her book ‘I Quit Sugar‘ and followed the links to David Gillespie’s site and the ‘Sweet Poison Quit Plan‘. I read both books that night and was convinced this was something I should try – just for 4 weeks – to see how I felt. After just a few days, I already felt very different.

Over the next 8 to 9 weeks, I lost 15 kilograms and felt a dramatic improvement in my energy. That same year, I attended two health retreats with Sydney-based nutritionist Michele Chevalley Hedge at ‘A Healthy View‘ and it was whilst on retreat that I decided to develop a chocolate range sweetened with glucose rather than regular sugar, recommended as a safe sugar in David Gillespie’s book. I started stocking fructose-free products for people with fructose sensitivity, fructose intolerance or for those who just wanted to reduce their intake of sucrose. Glucose-sweetened chocolate may have provided a bridge for me from my high sugar diet to becoming what I now call ‘fully sugar-free’, but I then needed to also reduce my carbs.

In late 2014, I found Professor Tim Noakes’ work on Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) and joined the Real Meal Revolution‘s first on-line course followed by the ‘Sugar Free Revolution‘, a course on how to quit sugar and food addictions. Since early 2015, I have been completely, entirely, sugar-free. No longer controlled by a sugar addiction, I enjoy a wide variety of tasty, nutrient-dense food in moderation and have all-but lost my sweet tooth. It’s been a huge shift from my old way of eating that was often chaotic and extremely high in sugar.

The healthiest part of chocolate is cocoa mass (the ‘chocolatey’ part of chocolate) that also contains cacao butter (a healthy fat that has a high smoke point similar to coconut butter and is therefore safe for high-temperature cooking). Cocoa nibs are crushed cocoa beans and cocoa powder is powdered cocoa mass with some of the cocoa butter removed. Chocolate is still a highly processed food and the purer the product the better. 100% unsweetened cacao mass is available to buy but it can be pretty unpalatable to eat unless you’re very accustomed to sugar-free living. It can be sweetened with your ‘sweetener of choice’ such as stevia, xylitol and erythritol, alternate sweeteners recommended by the Real Meal Revolution. But if – like me – you are highly ‘sugar-sensitive’ or have a sugar-addiction, the only solution I found that worked was abstinence.