Are You Addicted to Chocolate?
We often joke about being addicted to chocolate or that we are chocoholics, but how true is this fact and can we really be addicted to chocolate?
Like so many others, I am really fond of chocolate, I never really thought I was addicted to chocolate, however, until I was recently chatting to my friend.
We were discussing the cravings that we would get during the day and what our food ‘weaknesses’ were.
During our chat I became consciously aware of something I had just said. When my friend mentioned that she just banned the food she had a weakness for from the house, so that she wouldn’t eat it, I said that I would just go out and buy chocolate as I wouldn’t be able to think straight until I had some.
All of a sudden I realised that I might actually be addicted to chocolate.
The Problem with Chocolate
Many of us will eat chocolate on a daily basis. It will usually happen sometime after lunch, and commonly around the time of your afternoon energy slump. At this point of the day, our energy is waning and we need a mental and physical boost.
Chocolate is calling to us.
It is the perfect feel good, pick-me-up that you can grab and quickly enjoy with a cuppa, no matter how busy you are.
We have machines in our workplaces, train stations and shopping malls that dispenses chocolate at the touch of a button. Almost every store has a huge selection of chocolate to choose from, conveniently placed at the front of the store beside the counter.
So, chocolate is accessible and it does the job we need it to. It gives us a quick ‘happy’ fix.
This doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Why shouldn’t we enjoy chocolate on a daily basis like this?
The obvious reason for most of us will be the fact that this chocolate munching practice really does not help us to maintain a healthy weight, as almost all chocolate bars are crammed full of fat, sugar and, therefore, calories.
Other reasons why frequently chomping on chocolate is not good for us is that the high sugar content that it contains can really mess up our blood sugar levels. The refined sugar that is present in chocolate bars will give us an energy boost, lift our brain fog and improve our mood, but this will not last long.
The body releases insulin to help maintain our blood sugar levels and prevent them from becoming dangerously high. This insulin soon restores the blood sugar levels and you may find that your ‘chocolate hit’ has ended all too soon!
In response to such high levels of sugar, your body may over-produce insulin. By throwing so much sugar into our blood stream regularly, in bursts like these, our body soon complains.
An over production and constant exposure to the insulin produced can lead to insulin-resistance, where the body just doesn’t react to the presence of insulin anymore. This is a serious condition and leads to Type II Diabetes.
Why We Crave Chocolate
Even though we may understand the health consequences of devouring chocolate everyday, we are still driven to eat it.
Why? What makes us craves these chocolate bars so much and why can’t we give them up?
Well, for starters, the manufacturers of chocolate bars know how to make them taste really yummy. They include the satisfying ingredients of fat and sugar. This combination helps to satisfy the pleasure centres in your brain, along with the sensations of taste, texture and smell that you experience on eating chocolate.
The brain responds by releasing the so-called ‘feel-good’ chemicals. The serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins that are released give us the feeling of happiness, pleasure and contentment.
When we feel like this, it’s no wonder that we crave our chocolate so much!
Are We Really Addicted to Chocolate?
If we crave chocolate and it has such an influence on our being, then are we not addicted to it?
Eating chocolate does, in fact, release the same brain chemicals that happens with other addictions, such as with nicotine and alcohol.
Researchers say however, that although people do become more dependant upon the fat and sugar that’s contained in chocolate, and that they can demonstrate physical and psychological behaviours like those of an addict, they cannot become addicted to chocolate.
Chocolate may contain ingredients that alter our mood, as other addictive substances do, however, researchers have also discovered that there are higher levels of these substances in other foods such as broccoli, and, correct me if I am wrong, but I have never known anyone to feel that they are addicted to those little green trees!
So, this means that it is not recognised as a true addiction, but more of a behavioural pattern that we seek to play out and enjoy the reward of doing so.
As chocolate is not regarded as an addictive substance, we can continue to enjoy it - but best to do so in moderation.
We may crave chocolate, but as it is noticed to have a behavioural element attached to it, it is a craving that we can start to overcome with practice and the learning of new replacement habits.
If we need to feel good, but have run out of chocolate, we can always substitute it for healthy broccoli!