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Do You Know Why You Crave Chocolate?

by Melissa Koerner January 2nd, 2013 | Nutrition
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chocolateA few years ago a dear friend bought me a candy dish that had this message painted on it:  “There’s nothing better than a good friend… except a good friend with chocolate!”

This gift was very fitting for me because I LOVED chocolate—I mean, I felt like I couldn’t live without it!  I can admit this now, but the truth is, I was actually addicted to it.  Yes, I am a former chocoholic.  While I won’t deny that I have chocolate every now and then, I do not feel the need to eat it on a daily basis because I have kicked my insatiable cravings for it.  Here’s how I did it, and you can do it too!

Why We Get Cravings

Generally speaking, cravings are a signal that you are NOT giving your body the right mix of nutrients that it needs.  When your body doesn’t get the right amount of fuel, it can’t generate enough energy to keep you looking and feeling your best, and the result is an overwhelming desire to eat something stimulating like caffeine, sugar, and other refined carbohydrates—chocolate!

The problem is, when you eat carbohydrates without adequate amounts of proteins and fats for your body’s needs, you don’t give your body the right mix of fuel to create an optimal amount of energy.  Instead of fully converting to energy, a portion of the food you eat stores as fat, and before you know it, you’re crashing and starving again!  And so begins the vicious sugar/caffeine fix cycle!

In her book, The Schwarzbein Principle, Diana Schwarzbein explains that cravings for stimulants like sugar and caffeine stem from a low-serotonin state.  (I’m sure you’ve heard of serotonin before—it’s known as the “feel good” hormone).

When you consume carbohydrates, it raises your insulin levels, which results in the rapid release of serotonin causing your mood to improve.  And as your mood improves, you feel more alert, and you feel like you can function better.  This is why when you eat a piece of chocolate, for example, you usually feel good right after.  But, of course, this good feeling is only short-lived.

While eating a stimulant like chocolate to make you feel good may seem harmless, in the long run it’s not good for you, because it sets the stage for constant cravings and developing food addictions.

Here’s why:  When you consume too many carbs and stimulants for your body’s needs, it causes your insulin levels to raise too high, and this stimulates an excessive and temporary rush of serotonin.  Your serotonin supply gets used up very quickly, and as your serotonin levels plummet so does your mood, and this triggers the need for another fix to bring your spirits up.  So consuming excessive amounts of carbs and stimulants essentially creates a viscous cycle of constantly needing sugar or caffeine, because as your energy and mood drops, you feel the need to eat carbs or stimulants to get that serotonin rush again.

Once you start this sugar/caffeine cycle, it becomes very easy to rely on carbs and stimulants to give you that rush of serotonin to feel better, and before you know it you become addicted to them.

Sometimes people feel like they have no will power when it comes to sugar and caffeine, but the reality is will power alone is not what it takes to kick your cravings; you must learn how to feed your body properly so that you don’t put yourself in a position where these cravings are so ravenous they start to control you.  Simply put, you need to eat real foods in balanced proportions to keep your blood sugar and hormones in check.

Could You Have a Food Allergy? 

If you have strong cravings for certain foods, and you find that they actually make you feel worse, there’s a good chance that you could be allergic or sensitive to that food or something in that food.  Your body may be telling you that it needs a certain nutrient from that food, but that food may also contain something that is not agreeable to your body.   If this is the case, it’s important to discover what nutrient your body needs, but avoid the particular food that makes you feel bad.

For example, let’s say you crave chocolate, but you don’t actually feel good after eating it.  Sometimes cravings for chocolate, especially before menstruation, could actually be your body’s way of saying it needs magnesium.  Magnesium helps alleviate PMS because it’s involved in the manufacturing of progesterone (a lack of magnesium can lead to inadequate progesterone levels, producing symptoms of PMS).  So intuitively, your body may crave chocolate because it contains magnesium. But if you don’ feel good after eating it, there may be something else in the chocolate that your body doesn’t agree with.  For example, many chocolate manufacturers add soy lethicin and high fructose corn syrup, and soy and corn are very common allergens.  So, you could be reacting to one or both of these items.  In this case you could easily supplement your diet with magnesium.

Kicking Your Cravings

There is hope!  You can kick your constant cravings by learning to eat right for your body’s needs.  A good place to start is to identify your Metabolic Type so you know how to balance the amount of proteins, fats and carbs that your body needs to stay satiated and energized.

Here’s a simple analogy about creating the right fuel mix I use with my clients:

Think of your balanced meal as a burning fire. When you’re starting a fire, you usually use kindling wood and some paper, but to keep the fire burning you need to put on some logs.

The carbohydrates you eat (i.e. fruits, veggies and whole grains) are your kindling, and your proteins and fats (i.e. meat, fish, poultry, whole dairy, nuts, and seeds) are your logs.  So, to create the ideal food combination, or burning fire, you need to eat a balance of healthy carbs, proteins, and fats.

Once you learn how to create balanced meals for yourself, you will kick those cravings to the curb! Contact me at FriendYourBody.com with any comments.

Melissa Koerner

 

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.