In the 10 years I’ve been a qualified Dietitian THE food item that causes most headaches for people, especially women, in their progress towards achieving and maintaining their health and weight loss goals is chocolate. For many, chocolate can be really challenging to cut back on, especially when feeling stressed and anxious.
So the question is, with so many woman following some sort of weight loss plan, why is it that chocolate cravings would appear to be THE Achilles heel for many; preventing them from reaching and maintaining their healthy body weight?
It’s fair to say that, for many, no other food comes close to chocolate in terms of its flavour, rich concentrated composition, easy overconsumption and sensory chemical make-up.
Yes, there are plenty of theories to explain those chocolate cravings but, as of yet, not a lot of solid proof.
Here’s my attempt at explaining why chocolate cravings are so powerful; why caving to those chocolate cravings has very little to do with lack of willpower; and why it’s really not your fault.
“Well Jennifer, that’s all well and good” I hear you say, “But I still have this issue with eating too much chocolate and need a solution, if my willpowers not going to help me!”
Okay, Okay all hope is not lost!
Thankfully there’s now a really simple way to beat those cravings once and for all that’s gentle and thorough.
But let’s first focus on helping you understand a little more about the power chocolate has over so many of us.
So maybe a good place to start is with the bloomin’ obvious – for many, chocolate is simply seriously scrumptious to eat!
Yip, it tastes soooooooo good
Many of my clients initially describe, with love in their eyes, how deliciously smooth and sweet chocolate is for them. How easily and wonderfully it melts on the tongue and slips down the throat!
I’m guessing like me and millions of others you too eat chocolate, first and foremost, because you enjoy eating it; the taste, the texture, right?
But for many it’s much more than that……
All too often the cravings are so strong that it’s impossible to resist chocolate, and sometimes stopping when you get started can be a real challenge; sound familiar?
You’re not alone, that used to be me too!
There’s nothing quite like chocolate to confirm “You’re loved”
Marketers have been convincing us for the longest time that chocolate is the ‘ultimate indulgence’ and gift of love. Who can remember the milk tray man who faced James Bond style challenges to get those chocolates to the lady “who just loves milk Tray”? Oh dear I’m showing my age again!!!! No wonder then that we feel as if we’re getting a treat or something special when eating it.
No surprise either that in challenging economic times, it’s no accident that chocolate sales soar.
The Emotional Connection
The thing is, for so many, the relationship people have with chocolate is multifactorial, including physiological, cultural, psychological and environmental. So it’s safe to say that chocolate can serve many purposes, where the taste enjoyed is also tied up with all sorts of emotions, cultural factors, conditioning, habits and life experiences. My own connection was born out of wonderful times spent baking cakes and biscuits with my beloved Gran. My brain confused my deep love for my Gran with the chocolate. When I was no longer able to be soothed by her, my brain opted for the chocolate and other sweet treats that were filed away in the same filing drawer in my brain with my love for Gran.
No wonder then that so many of us experience such strong cravings for it.
For most people chocolate cravings are generally due to their emotional state and external prompts rather than anything to do with hunger. It may sound familiar to you that boredom, anxiety and depression are commonly experienced prior to cravings. This could be described as self-medication for feeling angry, anxious, depressed, fed-up, frustrated, stressed and unhappy. That’s definitely how it used to be for me and a recurring theme when supporting clients too.
For many, modern living contains daily, low levels of chronic stress and anxiety, which very often has us turning to chocolate for comfort. This can be quickly followed by a return to really punitive, restrictive dietary practices compensating for ‘falling off the wagon’; such as over exercising, juice diets, detox diets, fasting diets…..
I think most us know someone who’s made great strides in achieving their lifestyle goals until they come under some stressor. At this point, overwhelmed by the emotions with no other helpful coping strategies they relapse and return to the habits they’ve always relied upon. I was no different, the words “I need some chocolate” used to regularly fall from my lips when I was stressed and anxious.
Thing is, stress and anxiety triggers the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response where a whole host of hormones are released that can drive us towards foods that fuel us should we need to fight or run away. This hormonal mechanism served us well when we were facing Saber tooth tigers, but the chronic, low level stress we experience today simply contributes to our expanding waistlines. Watch this video to understand how stress affects your body
The guilt and shame
The marketing messages and relationship with chocolate is further complicated as, yes, it’s depicted as a go-to indulgence providing love and comfort, and at the very same time we’re told it’s something we’re supposed to feel guilty about.
And boy do many experience that guilt and shame intensely after indulging.
You may be one of the many woman who regularly beats themselves up because they cave to their chocolate cravings.
Lambasting yourself over your lack of willpower to just say “No”
At this point I want to gently remind you….. It’s not your fault
And so the chocoholic is born
So we’ve already established that chocolate’s probably one of the most common cravings many women experience. Many describing themselves as ‘chocoholics’ where they experience an instant feeling of well-being after eating chocolate; and even that abstinence leads to withdrawal symptoms.
Do you always have a bar of chocolate in your fridge or office drawers for those “emergency situations” when you desperately need something sweet or you’ll die? You rip open the wrapper and promise yourself you’re only going to have one little square… and then say, “oh it won’t hurt to have just one more”… and before you know it, there goes the whole damn bar. Or was that just me?
That’s all too often followed by crushing feelings of guilt, shame and remorse because your willpower’s failed again. And you’re soon distracted by mind chatter because you’re giving yourself a hard time about ‘caving’ to the craving.
Now your emotional distress is ratcheted up; you’re feeling stressed and anxious, meaning the chocolate cravings are back, louder and stronger than ever. Then, before you know it, you’re back in the kitchen with another empty chocolate wrapper in your hand.
And so the cycle continues on what seems like the never ending chocolate cravings hamster wheel!
You’re not alone, nearly every client and patient I’ve supported lose weight over the last 10 years has shared a similar story.
Cutting yourself some slack
I hope by now you’re cutting yourself and others some slack as you can see our relationship with chocolate is highly complicated and emotional, which is firmly embedded in our psychology from a very early age. No wonder then its so challenging for people to reduce how much chocolate they eat.
My clients and I used to have this type of challenging, emotional relationship with chocolate until I started including Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT/Tapping) as part of my service provision. Since then every client who follows my instructions forms a healthy relationship with food, including chocolate where they’re in charge of food cravings rather than cravings controlling them.
I love EFT as it beautifully soothes and, done properly, can eradicate the cause of the emotional upsets that comfort eating is a symptom of.
So……In order to support more health-conscious women kick their chocolate cravings to the kerb so they can achieve their healthy body weight more easily I’ve created a really affordable online course called Curbing Chocolate Cravings.
So if your chocolate cravings have felt out of control for way too long, and just need them to stop; and now.
Then you might want to consider signing up for this online course that will be available for a short period of time between 28th September and 5th October 2018 for the discounted price of £45.
And, as ever, if you think this article may be useful to someone else please do feel free to share it with them. And maybe come over and join the conversation by joining my email list, you’ll be most welcome. I do hope that this has been useful for you. Do you think you’re health would benefit from cutting back on how much chocolate you eat? Please do share in the comments below as I always love to hear from you.
Here’s to your nourishment; body, mind and spirit.