Yesterday marked the first day for people around the country to crack open the cardboard, peel back the doors and remove the foil of their advent calendar for 2021, an act that signals the festive season is officially here. For the next 24 days we will find joy in this little piece of chocolate every single day as the big event draws closer.
This got me thinking about what the advent calendar can teach us about our eating habits...
It's safe to say we are all pretty satisfied with the small dose of chocolate we receive behind the door, there's never usually a want for more or an uncontrollable rampage through the next 23 windows. We have come to a mutual agreement with ourselves/the chocolate company/Father Christmas that this is how much we're allowed and we're fine with that.
So if this small 5-10g portion of chocolate is enough to satisfy us, why do we end up finishing an entire 40g chocolate bar which is 4-8x the portion size?
2 primary reasons: Visibility & Availability
Availability - The act of opening the sealed door and peeling back the foil seems to be just enough friction to put people off from doing it. Unlike an already opened chocolate bar where the remaining portion is already exposed and just a bite away.
Visibility - If you can't see it, you won't think about it.
What can we learn from this?
If we are looking to implement more self control in our day to day eating habits we can use these 2 lessons to our advantage in the following ways:
Agree on a portion size - before consumption, agree with yourself the portion you are going to consume and stick to that undertaking.
Buy as much as you need - you've agreed with yourself how much you're going to eat, now only buy that portion size. Ignore the bombardment of multipack offers and buy 3 for £1.50, the savings aren't worth the temptation.
Keep it out of sight - If you have food in the cupboards that you have a tendency to over consume then keep it in cupboards you look in less frequently or are harder to access (higher up/lower down).
Another important lesson that the advent calendar teaches us is that no foods are off limits, moderation is the key. The average advent calendar chocolate seems to be around 30-60kcals which in the grand scheme of a 2000kcal diet is a mere 1.5-3% of total calorie intake. So with that math it's very easy to see how you can eat chocolate every single day and still (quite easily) maintain a calorie deficit.
What can we learn from this?
The bottom line is: As long as calories are in check, having a little treat every day is not going to hinder your progress. But that's how it should be, a little treat that supplements a diet full of nutritionally dense foods. For context, a snickers bar will make up closer to 11% of a 2000kcal diet, so once you start increasing the portion sizes you're playing with fire (but it's still very much doable).