The Truth About Uncontrollably Craving Chocolate

Why am I Craving Chocolate?

I love chocolate! Chocolate can feel like the best part of your day or your moment to relax after you have had a tough time. But sometimes it feels like you can’t control this desire to consume chocolate. Craving chocolate almost feels like an overwhelming sensation that can’t be tamed or reduced. However, it may be due to reasons other than simply lacking in self-control.

What causes craving chocolate

1. Sugar Fix

There are a range of reasons why you might all of a sudden feel the urge to eat chocolate. More often this is more than a feeling, and it feels like your body is pleading for it. The reason for this can be due to your body asking for a sugar fix. When your blood sugar level drops, your body will look to find food which can provide you with a glucose boost in the fastest way possible. As we all know, different chocolates contains varying degrees of sugar. Your body will use this easily consumable product as a sugar rush to get the blood sugar level back to where it should be.

2. Caffeine Boost

If you have seen my previous post on coffee, you know the effects of caffeine on the body. Chocolate can have differing amounts of caffeine depending on the level of cacao content. Ground cacao is the main ingredient in chocolate and comes from cacao seeds. This contains a natural amount of caffeine, which remains even after being roasted and ground for chocolate. Therefore the greater the cacao content, the greater the caffeine in the chocolate. So if you crave dark chocolate, you might be trying to feed a different craving of caffeine!

3. Stress

Often when we are stressed we look to something of comfort to help. Chocolate can often be the best go to food for comfort. The reason for this ‘instant relief’ is due to the endorphins that chocolate releases in the brain. Endorphins are your body’s natural pain reliever and when you are stressed you look to relieve this pain in some way. Chocolate an be an easy fix in many cases, but that moment on your lips can really turn into a lifetime on your hips!

4. You are just Hungry

This might seems obvious but hear me out. When you are hungry you are lacking the energy to carry on with the day ahead. Your body knows this and will look for fast carbohydrates to replenish the energy supply. Many refined sugars can be a fast solution, and so chocolate will give you a quick rush and allow you to carry on. However in many cases you will be left feeling unsatisfied after eating the chocolate, and will still be hungry.

Churros with Nutella from Edinburgh Christmas Markets [Edinburgh, Scotland]

How do I Stop Craving Chocolate?

In my opinion there is not a quick fix for stopping a chocolate craving, and I don’t think there should be either. Sometimes it’s important to give your body what it needs, as cravings can give us signs about what our bodies are lacking. Having said that, I always think it is smarter to exhaust all other options before resorting to eating massive amounts of chocolate.

1. Listen to your body and be intuitive

I bring this point up a lot in my blogs because I genuinely believe it to be such an important one. Many people live a life where they feel their minds and bodies are separated. such that there is no connection between the two. I am of the opinion that our brains and bodies are two information providers. They work simultaneously to help us live. Relying on only one or the other can be detrimental. As a result it’s important to use both to determine what is the best course of action for ourselves.

It is a very difficult way to live when your mind is telling you no, and your body is telling you yeah! Therefore being logical and allowing yourself to indulge a little is much better than trying to constantly control yourself. Diets can feel like a cage and will never be a long lasting fix. Instead we need to adapt our behaviour by rewarding ourselves a little, whilst remaining in control.

Homemade Chocolate Strawberries

2. Always eat sugar second

Lets travel back to my childhood for a moment. My mother taught me a very important lesson well before I was studying human behaviour. I loved having sweets when I was little. Any time I wanted one I would run to my mum and plead for anything sweet. And my mother’s reaction would always be the same; eat an apple first and then come back. So off I would go, eat the apple and come back. Then it would be eat a banana and then come back. Off I would go, and then back. Next was a pear, a plum, an orange…you get the idea.

So in this way I would slowly fill up on healthy food which had natural sugar levels before turning to the artificial stuff. That’s not to say my mum always restricted me and sometimes she just let me have it. The point is that I learned to always eat my meals, and use fruit as a sweet alternative. Since becoming an adult, if after eating a full meal and eating fruit I still want the chocolate, I have a small amount to fulfil the craving. But many times I won’t need it, because actually I’m just hungry, lacking energy, stressed etc. Normal foods can help you to rebalance your body. It’s important to always try alternatives before going straight for the sweets or chocolate. I use this method to this day, and I feel it helps enormously with my cravings so I would urge you to try it!

3. Exercise is your best friend

Now I know when you are hangry the last thing you want to do is exercise. However this is mainly for when you are stressed, anxious, or under pressure. Many times our lives can feel very chaotic, and that pressure or stress can be difficult to deal with. Chocolate can seem like a coping mechanism with the endorphin release. However, exercise can produce this same ‘feel-good’ endorphin release that helps to reduce the stress. I would recommend doing any type of exercise that you enjoy. It doesn’t need to be a 5k run (unless you want to do that sort of thing). You can go for a walk, do some yoga, whatever works for you. And it doesn’t have to be for a prolonged period of time either. Even 30 minutes of this time out can help clear your mind and make you feel more in control.

I am aware of the fact that it takes about 30 seconds to eat a chocolate compared to 30 minutes of exercise. Nevertheless this can be beneficial in many ways other than just avoiding chocolate. Remember than your body needs a healthy mind to function properly and vice versa. Listening to your mind when it tells you to take a break is important, as long as it is not over indulged. A healthy mind makes a healthy body, so be sure to look after all aspects of your being. Remember that you will have only one mind and body, so the earlier you start looking after it the better!

That's all for now folks!

That’s all for today folks. I hope you enjoyed this blog post. After taking a small break to recharge, I am back and excited to write about all the topics you have submitted. If you have any suggestions or comments let me know below or via email@behaviouralfoodie.co.uk

Oreo Milkshake from Steak, Cattle & Roll [Glasgow, Scotland]

7 Interesting Caffeine Facts that You Probably Didn’t Know

What is Caffeine?

Many of us wake up the in the morning and our first thought is our morning cup of coffee. Some people take it for the taste, others due to routine. But for the majority it is for the caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant found mostly in tea, coffee and soft drinks. It works by stimulating your brain and nervous system in order to keep you alert and reduce the onset of tiredness to the mind and body. It is recommended that up to 40 grams of caffeine a day is healthy for most adults. This is equivalent to around 4 cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of Coca Cola or 2 ‘energy shot’ drinks.

1. Caffeine can Affect your Behaviour

It is a well known fact that caffeine can make people feel more awake, work faster and feel generally less tired. Caffeine enhances the dopamine chemical in the brain which helps control your motivation, emotion and movement. Therefore it can directly affect your behaviour by enhancing those signals. When you are tired, your body naturally will try to slow you down and stop you exerting excess energy and using up resources. However, with the caffeine in the system your body no longer feels tired and you are able to do so much more.

Now you may think this is great! I can do more and all I need is a few cups of coffee! However the flip side of this is that many people can become dependent on the feeling that caffeine gives them. As time goes on the body will build up a tolerance to the level of caffeine it is receiving. When the body is then deprived of this, it can lead to craving coffee. However, this isn’t for the flavour and rather the feeling it gives you. In turn you may experience withdrawal.

2. You Can Experience Withdrawal

Caffeine withdrawal is when the body is deprived and reacts in unpleasant way including headaches, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, nausea, muscle pain and irritability. The general rule of thumb is that these will be more severe the more caffeine you consume. These symptoms can occur 12 to 24 hours after the last caffeine intake and can last from 2 to 9 days.

3. Caffeine can Feel Additive

Although these symptoms are severe, it cannot argued that caffeine is ‘addictive’. When the body builds up tolerance, over time people may consume more to achieve the desired effect. This in turn can make people feel like they are addicted because they require that ‘hit’ during the day. However, the body is ‘dependent’ on the caffeine rather than being ‘addicted’ like it would to a drug.

4. Caffeine can Affect your Mental State

A range of studies have shown that withdrawal from caffeine has both physical and mental side effects. The mental effects can include dysphoria, delirium, nervousness, restlessness and anxiety. Many people will not associate the coffee they consume as a contributor to these factors. But in many cases caffeine can affect sleep cycles, and in turn effect many of these issue which require sufficient sleep. Although caffeine is a useful stimulant, in many cases people can overconsume and cause themselves more harm than good. As always, it is important to consume caffeine in moderation and intuitively decide how it affects your body. You may find you feel more tired but less anxious if you reduce your caffeine intake.

5. There are Ways to Reduce Withdrawal Symptoms

Although this is difficult, there ways to reduce caffeine withdrawal symptoms. There is no quick fix, but if you are experiencing severe headaches you can take an over-the-counter medication to ease the pain. My advice would then be reduce the amount of caffeine you consume in a day. If you are feeling particularly dizzy or nauseous, it is advised to take rest and remain hydrated. Increasing your water intake can help your body deal with the caffeine levels, and dehydration can lead to many issues. See my blog post on hydration for more info!

6. How to Reduce your Caffeine Intake

I have found the best way to reduce caffeine intake is to identify the source from which you receive it, whether that is coffee, tea, soft drinks or any other beverage or food stuff. Using the example of coffee, check how much caffeine you are intaking per cup and try to ensure this is at an acceptable level. Thereafter, try to wean yourself off the drink. If you drink 4 cups, try having 3 and substituting one cup for a decaf alternative. Your body may experience a placebo effect where it believes it receives a hit due to the associative conditioning between the coffee and the caffeine. As a result you may feel less affected by missing out that 4th cup.

Many people can consume a caffeinated drink out of habit. If you replace this habit with an alternative one, it may help you to reduce to 1 or 2 cups a day. Using decaf drink is a very achievable way of doing this and one I highly recommend. As a person who has reduced her own intake, I can tell you that it wasn’t easy but it was definitely worth it and I used this decaf coffee method. Remember than your body is an incredible machine and you can anything as long as you put your mind to it!

7. There are Incredible Benefits to Living Caffeine Free

Less anxiety and headaches

In my experience, I have had fewer headaches and felt much less anxious and irritable with reducing my caffeine intake. I feel much more in control of my own feelings and moods and I am not heavily reliant on a food or drink to make me feel ‘good’ or awake. It helps me to listen to what my body is wanting or telling me to do.

Better sleeps

I also feel I have much better sleeps without it. My body feels tired at normal times and I feel much more rested the net day. This in turn means I have less of a need for a morning coffee the next day. I think this is an ongoing cycle that you can build on and over time you will definitely see the benefits.

Whiter teeth

Chemicals found in coffee, tea and soft drinks can definitely affect the colour of teeth and in many cases stain them. I am sure many of you are very particular about how your teeth look and so cutting out caffeine can definitely help with this.

More balanced hormones for women

I feel like this point should have a blog post all of its own! Women can especially benefit from being caffeine free as it can alter and increase oestrogen levels. Although this can change depending on your ethnicity, it can be particularly concerning if you suffer from conditions like endometriosis, breast cancers and ovarian cancers. This is because high oestrogen level are directly associated with the causes of these. Its been shown to also worsen certain menopause symptoms. As a result for the women especially try to reduce your intake if you can!

Healthier digestion

Caffeine has been shown to have a laxative effect and stimulate bowel movements. As a result consumption in large amount scan cause diarrhoea or loose stool. By reducing it you can help your mind and behaviour, as well as your gut and internal organs.

That’s all for today folks! I hope you enjoyed this piece on caffeine and withdrawal. If you have any comments let me know below, or using the email address email@behaviouralfoodie.co.uk.