Here, Linda Clark, 39, tells the story in her own words.
H￼ide this,’ I told my partner, handing him a block of chocolate.
It’ll be different this time, I thought. I won’t hunt for it. But despite my best intentions, a few hours later when Jeremy, 41, went out, I was rummaging through the house, desperate. That’s because I was a chocolate addict.
In a bad week, my cravings were so severe I could munch through six kilos – the same as 30 family-sized blocks!
It hadn’t always been like this. Growing up, my mum, Wendy, now 66, made sure I ate healthily.
Chocolate was a treat and any bars I got for my birthday were rationed to make them last. Somehow, I still had a sweet tooth. So when I got a job in a supermarket aged 14, I started using my wages to buy Mars bars. I’ve earned it, I thought.
At university, chocolate became more than just a reward. It was an emotional crutch. Working on assignments, my housemates and I would grab a treat to lift our spirits. But while they could stop after one bar, I’d need three. The downside was that my weight crept up. I should probably cut back, I thought. But I didn’t believe I could. By now, I needed chocolate.
When I got a job teaching, I’d reach for chocolate to pick me up when I was tired. As soon as the sugar rush wore off though, I’d feel awful again. So I’d just have some more.
Eventually, I was grabbing a chocolate bar instead of eating lunch or dinner. Some days, I’d even start the day with one.
Not wanting to set a bad example for my kids, Caleb, 14, Obi, 11, and Teilani, three, I’d often binge in secret. Jeremy didn’t know the true extent of the problem either.
Sitting in my car at the shops, I’d wolf down a few bars before I headed home. I also kept a secret stash in a drawer in the bedroom.
Like a drug addict, I was always desperate for my next fix. Mortifyingly, I even scoffed the chocolate I bought the kids for Easter.
Deep down, I knew I had to change.
Thanks to my cravings I was a size 26, but I really wanted to shift some weight. You won’t be able to quit, a nasty voice in my head mocked.
Whenever I had negative thoughts or my self-esteem was low, I’d reach for the chocolate. It was a horrible, vicious cycle.
Then, in April this year, I had a light-bulb moment. Sitting at the table, about to crack into a choccy bunny, I was browsing my emails. Are you a chocoholic? one subject read. Erm, yes! I thought, instantly intrigued.
The email was from a therapist, Mark Stephens. I’d signed up to his mailing list a few months earlier but hadn’t given it much more thought.
Typing out a response immediately, I confessed everything.
When Mark replied, he suggested I go on a retreat he was running. He’d use psychological techniques, including hypnotherapy, to try and break my bad habits.
Hopeful, I booked a spot. ‘I’m going to give this a real go,’ I told Jeremy.
The night before, I peeled the wrapping off my last ever bar of delicious chocolate. This is it, I told myself. Then I munched on another ‘last’ bite, scoffing heaps until I felt sick. Would I really be able to break free from chocolate’s grip? I worried.
Arriving at the retreat, I knew I had to try.
Over three days, I’d learn how I could change my thought patterns. ‘What really disgusts you?’ Mark asked me. ‘Maggots, cockroaches and dog poo,’ I said, repulsed.
Then, using a technique called aversion therapy, Mark helped train my brain to associate chocolate with the things I hated the most. I was even shown videos of maggots writhing in a block of chocolate. Yuck! I thought, feeling ill.
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