For the last year I’ve been searching for the perfect treat. Since January of 2021, I’ve been practicing the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting to keep my insulin hormone levels low, all in an effort to lose weight, namely belly fat. It has worked pretty well for me so far. I’ve lost 30 pounds on this 47-year-old body, much of it around my midsection. And honestly, I've never felt better.
Keto is a low carb, high fat and moderate protein diet that attempts to signal to the body that fat is the fuel source to use for energy.
I couple keto with intermittent fasting for the same reason: to keep insulin levels low, to tell the body that the store with all the fat in it is now open for business.
I’ve been very happy with the results, and plan to continue down this path for the foreseeable future. It’s super easy. Since I’ve gotten used to it, I’ve even done multiple fasts of 25+ hours.
But… and this is a big but – man, do I miss desserts. Before I started fasting and keto, I had a very big sweet tooth, and the roundness of my belly was proof thereof. Now, mind you, people who know me didn’t consider me overweight. I could probably be described as one of those skinny fat guys. A year ago, if an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years bumped into me at a restaurant she might have said, "Hey, you look the same as when I last saw you, sans the hair, of course." But, if we met at a beach or a pool, she’d probably have muttered to herself, “…damn, bro, what happened to you?” So, yeah, skinny fat.
I really liked my sweets. I have two beautiful kids, aged nine and six. And one of the best things about having kids is getting to eat all their candy! Teaching them the valuable life lesson of sharing by making them give me some of their Halloween candy was some of the best child-rearing I’ve ever done. Of course, it’s a two-way street, and if I ever had something yummy of my own to snack on, God forbid my kids saw it, because they would be all over it. This treat debauchery carried on for a few years, until the end of 2020, when the scale looked up at me one cold, harsh winter morning and said, “It’s time.”
The first thing most people do when starting the keto diet is cut out sugar. Eating sugar tends to drive up insulin levels dramatically. A year ago, I stopped stealing my kids’ Christmas candy, and while my shrinking midsection made me very happy, an important part of my soul felt left behind. Thus, while I religiously adhered to my new way of eating, I scoured the internet for dessert substitutes – of which there were many. As a star student at YouTube University, I found and attempted many a recipe that purported to be a delicious keto-friendly alternative to that delectable New York Cheesecake I was craving from the bakery down the street. Most of these substitutes were palatable enough, maybe 3 out of 10 on the tasty rating, but all were most decidedly a 0 out of 10 in satisfying.
My quest for a delicious alternative continued for months.
And then I finally unearthed it: dark chocolate. Chocolate that is 70% or more in cocoa was keto-friendly – meaning it was low enough in sugar/carbohydrates and high enough in fat that a few squares of it are keto-approved. After learning about this, I rushed to the store to get some. I’d never had chocolate that high in cocoa before, but I’ve always liked the normal Ghirardelli dark stuff. Surely, some that was a little darker, despite the lower sugar content, could scratch that itch that had been pestering me for months. I at least had to try.
I went to the local Trader Joe’s and in the chocolate section there were several choices that were above the 70% threshold. 86%. 75%. Even 95%. I chose an 82% cocoa bar.
Now, I’m a little weird, in that, when I finally take possession of something I’ve really wanted for a long time, I don’t tear it open the instant I get outside of the store and devour it whole. I like to hold onto it for a little while. Ponder it. Just having it in my pocket sometimes is enough gratification for me. I know, weird.
I finally opened my prize at home and broke off a square. I looked at it for one more second and took a bite. When it touched my lips I knew I’d found what I was looking for. It was perfect. After months that itch was finally scratched.
And I didn’t have to cheat! I’d found something that kept me on track of reaching my health and weight loss goals and it also completely fulfilled my cravings. I fell in love immediately.
As if those positives weren’t enough, there’s another bonus to loving dark chocolate. My kids hate it! Yep, they hate it. The next afternoon, when my kids got home from school, they came downstairs to my home office. I was sitting at my desk savoring the first piece of my daily ration of the bar I bought the day before. Gracie, my six-year-old daughter, entered first. She saw what I had in my hand and jumped into my lap.
“Daddy, I want some!” she said.
"Well, hello to you, too, my Gracie. How was school?" I replied.
"Oh, hi, daddy. It was good. Can I have some chocolate now?
“I don’t think you're gonna like this one.”
“Daddy, you’re just saying that like always,” she said, shaking her head. “Please, can you share some?”
“No, I’m not,” but I knew she wouldn’t stop. The little devil on my shoulder thought it was going to be hilarious to see her reaction when she tasted this very dark chocolate. “Okay, fine. Here, just try a little of it.”
Gracie took one small bite and within the span of three seconds her face went from happy, curious, to confused, to what was that! Another second later she spit out a melted glob into my hand (I know, parenthood, right?). “Yuck! That’s yucky, daddy!”
“I told you,” I said, barely containing my laughter inside.
“I don’t like that.”
“I told you, you weren’t going to like it,” I said, as I attempted to clean my hand with a napkin.
“You don’t like what, Gracie?” my nine-year-old son Niall said as he walked in. “What doesn’t she like, Daddy?”
“Daddy’s chocolate is disgusting!”
Niall, the big brother, has reached the age where everything his baby sister says is wrong, so he walked up to us and said, “No it’s not, Gracie. It looks good! I want some, Daddy.”
With every intention of showing her how misguided she was, Niall took a bite of the bar with gusto and proceeded to repeat exactly what his sister had just done, spit and all. “Ack! What was that? That’s gross!”
“You like my chocolate?” I asked, now outwardly laughing. “Here, have some more!”
“No way!” they both said in unison as they ran out of the room.
I chuckled for a moment more as I sat at my desk and finished the rest of my small treasure. I basked in its discovery. Not only did it sate my hunger without compromising goals, it was also something I could enjoy in peace without my kids hijacking it for themselves. Win-win-wins like that are hard to find.