Everyone has a weakness when it comes to food. Personally, chocolate wins my heart. In fact, my chocolate cravings sometimes get so intense that I'll sneak some cocoa into (or instead of) a key meal. Now after months of trying to eat healthier, I've finally come to realise the full extent of chocolate's effects. We've all heard about chocolate's release of happy chemicals; but the euphoria is only temporary—lasting an average of three minutes, and making you feel sluggish for a lot longer afterwards.

I often tell my friends about my chocolate-cutting ambitions. I'm the type to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's and feel horrendous afterwards—realising that the feel-good factor wasn't all that it was made out to be. As someone who could previously get away with eating large volumes of chocolate with little effect other than sluggishness, I've been increasingly concerned about chocolate's ill effects on my body and mind, and I decided to experiment with going cold turkey.

If you've ever explored the nutritional side of Pinterest or Instagram, you've probably come across a cravings chart. These charts list the most common foods people crave and what this actually means for your body. A craving for chocolate is associated with a lack of magnesium, and snacks like nuts or legumes are suggested as alternatives. As much sense as this nutritional diagram made, I couldn't help feeling skeptical about whether these tips would actually work. So I decided to go a week without my guilty pleasure and find out if there really was a way to beat the cravings for good.

Day 1

Rebecca Salter

The first day without chocolate was admittedly preceded by a parting indulgence. I made the most of my chocolate-filled lifestyle the day before and relaxed with a bar of Galaxy. While it goes without saying, my preparation for the week ahead definitely helped me to stick to my chocolate-free plans all week. I made sure I had plenty of snacks on hand and enjoyed three complete meals instead of grabbing a chocolate muffin to go.

The difficulty of this challenge seemed to be in my mind, as knowing I couldn't eat chocolate made me want it more. By the afternoon I found I was craving something sweet—but it wasn't the kind of craving that could be fixed with other sweets. It was also the creaminess as well as the richness of chocolate that I felt I needed to satisfy my brain, and I brushed aside the legume tip in favor of a cup of breakfast tea with some shortbread.

While it wasn't the healthiest, it definitely hit my sweet spot, and I found that, because it wasn't my "weakness-food," I didn't need to eat as much—shortbread just doesn't tickle my fancy in the same way Dairy Milk does. I also found that fresh fruit was a great snack for when I didn't want something savory.

Day 2

Rebecca Salter

My second day chocolate-free was accomplished by keen attention to fitting in hearty meals. I had the privilege of eating out in the evening, and that gave me something to look forward to throughout the day. Some of my meals can be depressingly monotonous—with one example being a plain bowl of Weetabix. So today I focused on getting a variety of foods (especially good foods) into my diet.

Grabbing a restaurant option admittedly made this far easier than it would've been otherwise (though not necessarily cheaper!). I did find that I had to eat a larger portion than I normally would to satiate my cravings for a post-meal snack. I also had to realise that food isn't the one and only stress relief during busy days. I also had exercise, conversation, and other forms of relaxation to consider. With chocolate out of the equation, I was forced to direct my attention elsewhere, and I experienced food as a source of nourishment rather than false comfort.

Day 3

Rebecca Salter

I don't mean to sound too sentimental too quickly. I didn't have a "eureka" moment where I substituted a bad way of eating for a wholly nutritional and perfect diet. I still missed chocolate and I still got cravings. In fact, I was re-watching a video filmed by Kelli Segars (the loveable fitness guru behind the famous Fitness Blender YouTube channel). In her vlog confession, Kelli discloses her unhealthy eating habits. "I don't eat like you think I do," she admits to her million-plus viewers. 

She tells fans that she struggles to stick to a strict diet when it's imposed upon her, and that, psychologically, allowing yourself the things you crave (in moderation, of course) is ultimately more sustainable in the long run than attempting a diet that is likely to fall through at some point or another. This was something I could instantly relate to—I was already planning which chocolate-based indulgence to give in to after my week was up. And while I was determined to last the whole week without chocolate, I also felt in the back of my mind that moderation rather than absolute restriction would be more realistic as a long-term goal.

Day 4

Rebecca Salter

As you'd probably expect, this challenge became easier as I went along. Once I stopped relying on chocolate as a comfort snack (one I always needed to have on hand) I started to adopt a much more varied diet and also had more energy. This was the day I really got into the swing of my meal plans and dietary balance. I found that I wasn't craving chocolate as much (and I didn't even rely on replacing chocolate with legumes to get there).

Day 5

Rebecca Salter

I felt like I was getting the hang of this diet challenge. A lot of the time I was craving chocolate, it was probably a sign that I wasn't eating properly (or enough). I focused on incorporating healthy fats into my meals, such as avocado (and who could say no to that?). I began to realize that a lot of us do, in fact, under-eat, especially when it comes to volume and meal frequency. We tend to rely on empty calories when we're in a hurry (that is, calories that offer very little nutritional value). I made it my goal to have three full meals a day and three snacks in between, and made nutrition my priority rather than convenience. It was definitely a way to secure an energy kick and alleviate the feeling that I was prolonging my hunger unnecessarily—even if it did require a little extra prep-work than a Dairy Milk splurge.

Day 6

Rebecca Salter

While cutting out something like chocolate is certainly doable, I'd be lying if I said fuller meals had completely curbed my cravings. Incorporating a huge variety of fruits and vegetables definitely helped—as did mixing up meals so I would have something new and exciting instead of repetitive dishes. However, I often found myself hunting around for a sugar-fix—or even something like coffee, which reminded me a tiny bit of tiramisu... Psychologically, I believed that being too strict would have an "elastic band" effect — I'd go so long without my favorite cravings that I'd eventually snap and lose my track record completely.

Day 7

Rebecca Salter

This week, I've certainly toggled between yearning for chocolate and being "so over it." It seems as though we crave our trigger foods more when they're not there (though often, if they are there, we'll indulge for the sake of indulging). My chocolate-cut definitely made me reframe my relationship with food and allowed me to reconsider which foods were actually most beneficial for my body and my mood (rather than functioning as filler foods to make me feel temporarily elated).

Cutting out my guilty pleasure was the best thing I could do to open up my dietary options. Going forward, I don't think I'll be as strict with my regulations, as I found myself thinking frequently about the one food I was banned from. Would I now be less likely to indulge as often as I used to? Almost certainly. I plan to continue adding variety in my diet and eating suitable meals and snacks throughout the day. Though I've tried going cold turkey, I feel like moderating my chocolate intake is a far more achievable goal than eliminating the food I enjoy the most. All in all, this week gave me a chance to experiment with my meals and choose wiser snacks (that actually ended up tasting pretty incredible).