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How I Quit Junk Food Cold Turkey

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Do you remember me telling you recently I gave up junk food altogether a few years ago? And by that, I mean totally. I don't so much as take one lick of a Tootsie Roll Pop, let alone put a dab of butter on a baked potato.

In case you're wondering how that's possible, here's my answer: Dove dark chocolate. Dove dark isn't junk food. You can look it up.

My dessert choices skew toward fruit these days. Fresh blueberries, fresh strawberries, frozen blueberries -- and yes, fresh strawberries drizzled with Dove dark chocolate. When I'm in the mood for a cookie, I melt a square of Dove dark over some WASA crispbread. When I want candy, I pop one into my mouth and then have a teaspoon of crushed walnuts or slivered almonds. When I want a cross between candy and a cookie, I pop another one in my mouth and have a few squares of shredded wheat. When I want cotton candy, I'm screwed -- but you get the idea.

When my daughter was little and long before I considered saying goodbye to pizza and donuts and eggnog topped with whipped cream and peppermint sprinkles, we used to have what we called chocolate contests. We'd each take a square of Dove dark, pop it into our mouths, and see who could make it last the longest. "Chocolate's a hug you can taste," I'd tell her, as I'd bonus her one for winning the contest -- or to help soothe an owie when a real hug wasn't enough.

As the big day approached, the day I'd have my last greasy hamburger and my last order of French fries and my last milkshake and pastry and bag of Skittles and piece of milk chocolate, I knew I was going to need something besides dates rolled in more crushed walnuts to satisfy my sweet tooth. Dove dark was perfect. In the beginning, I'd have as much as I wanted. It wasn't unheard of to polish off a whole bag in a day. Trading Oreo cookies for that much Dove dark isn't what the diet doctors would order, but at some level I must've known what I was doing. I could say I was sticking to only healthy food as I made peace with dark chocolate being the only thing on the dessert menu.

Think of how much time you spent cuddling on your honeymoon. Then you settled into married life, and cuddling assumed its proper place. Dove dark was kind of like that. I binged some in that first year, and now I have -- at most -- a couple of squares a day. But to continue with the cuddling analogy, I get so much delight from those one or two squares it seems silly to think about more. The experts suggest most of the pleasure from dessert comes from those first two or three bites anyway. The rest? Diminishing returns.

Variety may be the spice of life, but it seems to be the undoing of eating well. It's much easier to call it good when the choices are limited. Subject someone to a buffet and there's a tendency to want to at least sample everything -- and to go back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths.

May I take the cuddling analogy one step further? When you get married, you promise to cuddle with one person -- and that one person only -- for the rest of your life. When I committed to eating healthy, I decided Dove dark would be my treat. I've forsaken all other treats. And you know what? It's made things easier. When the dessert cart comes around, I take the fresh fruit and have another cup of coffee. When everyone else is having kettle corn at the amusement park I remember the headaches I used to get when I'd get started on that and not be able to stop. When I'm feeling stressed, I melt a square of Dove dark in my mouth and see how long I can make it last.

The makers of Dove dark aren't paying me to write this post. But sometimes I wonder if they designed their candies especially for me.

They're called Promises.

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