Southern Accent: Testing my resolve by giving up chocolate
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Monday, Jan. 13, 2014

Southern Accent: Testing my resolve by giving up chocolate

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- ERICA BATTEN
Roommates on a study-abroad program in England in 1997 collected the wrappers from the chocolate bars they ate, the way some college students collect beer bottles.

I will wait until everyone is busy downstairs, and then I will sneak up to the bedroom, find the chili-lime chocolate bar (what a gorgeous idea!), and have just a small taste before anyone notices I’m gone.

Oh, yes. That is delicious.

Maybe just one more bite. Uh-oh, where did that chocolate bar go? Here’s the wrapper, but it appears to be empty. Quick! Someone’s coming. Hide the evidence, hop under the covers and pretend to be napping. Is there chocolate on my mouth?

I can only imagine that those were my miniature dachshund’s thoughts on that afternoon, probably because I’ve enacted similar scenarios many, many times:

What happened to your Halloween candy, honey? Maybe the dog ate it.

Why, yes, we are out of ice cream. Did we open the container just yesterday? Huh. Well, you know, the ice cream cartons are smaller these days. Yes, that’s it. Smaller containers.

It’s not that I totally lack willpower.

In 1994, for example, I made a New Year’s resolution: In 1995, I would eat no chocolate.

It all started when my friend, Wayne, left half of a chocolate pizza at my house after a Christmas party. We were in high school, and unlike normal high school kids who get into liquor when left unsupervised, I went straight for the chocolate. I devoured the remaining dessert in one sitting, much as my dog did with the candy bar years later.

Blech. I vowed to swear off chocolate for a year.

That was the year I went to Europe, y’all, and I still managed to pull it off. No Valentine’s candy, no Swiss chocolate, no hot chocolate and no white chocolate. No chocolate pizza, even.

I was incredibly proud of myself, especially given my notorious sweet tooth.

But willpower must have compensation. If I construct a dam to hold back chocolate, there’s going to be spillover in the vanilla sector.

In 1995, I ate more Rice Krispies treats and frozen yogurt than ever. Snickerdoodles and oatmeal cream pies were my friends. By Christmas, I had gained 10 pounds – the equivalent of a small dog.

So much for willpower.

On Jan. 1, 1996, I ate my first bite of chocolate in a year. I started exercising regularly, ate sweets only occasionally and got back to my normal weight within a couple of months.

Miraculously, my dog was fine after her chocolate theft. According to the Internet scale of chocolate toxicity for dogs, a 3-ounce chocolate bar for a 9-pound dog is an extremely toxic dose.

We called the veterinarian. We watched her closely all day for signs of trauma. We (OK, I) blubbered like a baby. And after two days with no reaction other than a very long morning walk and some carpet-scooting (which may have been more of a reaction to the chili), Gipsy seemed fine.

I know the chocolate is bad. But the real harm, it seems, is in acquiring a taste for it.

Since those harrowing two days, Gipsy has begged for more, literally: She balances her long torso on her hind legs with forepaws dangling in a perfect pleading pose, waiting for someone with thumbs to open the pantry door.

That is how she used to react when there was cheese on the counter or I was deboning a chicken. Now she’d take on the alpha dog for a bite of Ferrero Rocher.

We’ve had her for 10 years, and she’s never gone for chocolate before. The stuff is dangerous, I tell her – and not just for dogs.

Maybe she’s trying to tell me something. Lately, I’ve been worried that she is getting older, and that she might not be with us much longer. Maybe she’s worrying the same about me.

So to show me how toxic food can be, she devoured the one thing in the pantry that’s strictly off-limits. My dog is giving me a wake-up call.

Or maybe I’m projecting just a little bit, the way I did when I imagined her eating the chocolate bar. Still, I think it may be a good idea to repeat my experiment from 1995. The house will be safer without chocolate, anyway.

After all, what is a resolution but a test of one’s resolve?

Which reminds me: We need some carpet cleaner. That, and some Rice Krispies.

Erica Batten is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Erica? Email her at ebattenobserver@gmail.com.

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