Today I feel a rant coming on. Thank God Easter is now over.
Throughout the year I am surrounded by people desperately trying to keep a healthy lifestyle, build fitness and lose a little fat. But Easter comes, and every year I see them come off the rails. They stop coming into the gym and succumb to all those Easter treats. It’s the time of year where everyone’s resolutions seem to full apart. It’s the time they eat lots of chocolate, hunt for eggs and feast with family. All those effort that have gone before to lose weight have gone down the sink during Easter.
Easter was once a religious occasion but now has turned into a heavily-commercialised opportunity for excessive consumption of chocolate. For our kids we are associating in their young minds the link between celebration and stuffing themselves silly with sugar-loaded, fat-laden, high-calorie chocolate.
So what is it that makes people go Chocolate crazy?
Chocolate has a chemical in it called phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring amino-acid which is a substance which is released naturally in the human body when you’re in love. This chemical is the reason why sex and chocolate are often linked together. Other stimulants present in chocolate are dopamine and serotonin, which alleviate pain and encourage a good mood. Serotonin produces feelings of pleasure in a similar way to sunlight. Chocolate also contains theobromine, a chemical frequently confused with caffeine, but which has very different effects on the human body. It is a mild, lasting stimulant with a mood improving effect. So it’s not surprising how many people just love eating chocolate.
A chocolate bar contains about 60% sugars and 30% saturated fats, a very small amount of protein and little in the way of nutrients. This amount of sugar provides an almost instant rush of energy which means it gets into your bloodstream fast. Your body responds by pumping out the insulin to bring blood sugar levels down again. The trouble is the insulin often overdoes it, leaving your blood levels even lower than before you had the snack, so you feel tired, irritable and lethargic and crave another dose of sugar for an instant energy boost. So, the vicious circle then goes on, and on, and on.
Sugar makes up more than 30 per cent of the average British diet. That’s three times the maximum recommended intake set by the World Health Organisation. We are advised that men should eat no more than 65g of added sugar a day and women no more than 50g. With the average bar of milk chocolate containing around 30g of sugar, that doesn’t leave you much room for a chocolate binge.
The addictive properties of chocolate brings about the term “chocoholic”. Chocolate has strong psychological links for us as a comforter, as a reward or even as a token of our love for others. When it comes to chocolate addiction, chocoholics usually find the best of intentions get thrown out the window. No matter how hard you ‘put your foot down’, the chocolate usually finds some way to convince you to eat more.
The saying may go, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, but what about women? It is a long standing tradition to present a woman with a box of chocolate as a romantic gesture.
This is amply shown by the old Milk Tray Chocolate advertisements.
So I decided to come to my own conclusion and I urge you to do the same.
Look at a bar of chocolate. What does its appearance tell you? Is the chocolate shiny or dull? Let your eyes light your imagination. Break a piece of chocolate in half and listen to the sound, listen to the sharp, crisp sound. Take your finger and rub just a bit of the chocolate. The chocolate should feel smooth and even. The warmth of your body will cause the chocolate to melt and release odours. Spend more time just smelling the chocolate. Warm it up more with your finger, close your eyes, and let your mind run wild with what this will taste like. Now place the chocolate in your mouth. Enjoy how the chocolate feels in your mouth. Is it light and fleeting or like a heavy velvet that lingers? What’s the texture – thick and sandy or smooth and silky? Let it melt in your mouth. As it dissolves, what flavours come to the fore? How do the flavours change as you move the chocolate slowly around your mouth? Now close your eyes and feel the flavours ascend off your tongue. What does it taste like? How long does the flavour linger? Relax and enjoy yourself. Let the flavours unfold. Enhance the pleasure by taking the time to mindfully savour each bite. Engage all of your senses for a full chocolate experience. While melting the chocolate should feel rich and luscious in your mouth. Don’t chew let the flavours release on their own. Pay attention to the taste that just pops into your head. Spend time being aware of how the flavours change over time as the chocolate continues to melt and coat more of your mouth. As the last of the chocolate leaves your mouth, the lingering flavour is known as the ‘finish’ of the chocolate.
Is your mouth beginning to water as you anticipate the pleasure of that piece of chocolate. Maybe you’re a chocoholic?
Let’s find out.
Lots of people say they are, but how can you be sure? Take this fool-proof test, and if you pass you can tell everyone, it’s not your fault you are a chocoholic.
1. Why do you eat chocolate?
a. It’s a pleasant snack now and then.
b. It’s a good way to indulge myself in sensual pleasures.
c. Are you kidding, it makes life great?
d. It’s my reason for living.
2. How much chocolate do you consume every day?
a. Less than two pieces.
b. Three or four pieces.
c. Five pieces.
d. Six pieces or more (chocoholic material).
3. When is your favorite time to eat chocolate?
a. After a good meal.
b. Between meals.
c. As meals.
d. All of the above.
4. With whom do you share your chocolate?
a. Friends, family, co-workers, or whoever is around.
b. Close friends and family only.
c. Only with loved ones, and only if they’ve been good.
d. Share my chocolate? Are you joking?
5. What is your favourite way to consume chocolate?
a. By nibbling a bit now and then throughout the day.
b. By swallowing whole chunks at a time.
c. By intravenous injection.
c. I dive into a 100 gallon bath and suck away.
Give yourself one point for every “a.” answer, two points for every “b.” answer, three points for every “c.” answer, and four points for every “d.” answer. Add them up and compare your score with the definitions below.
5 – 8 Novice Chocoholic – You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
9 – 12 Chocoholic Tendencies – You’ve got the makings of a chocoholic, all right. You just need a little nurturing.
13 – 16 Closet Chocoholic – All you need is a little push to get you to come out into the open.
17 – 20 A True Chocoholic – As a matter of fact, you’re looking a little peaked and your hands are starting to shake. Must be time for a fix!
Here is a little bit of good news. In certain ways chocolate can be good for you.
1. Heart disease: Cocoa is the highest natural source of magnesium, which may help those at risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The magnesium may also help sufferers of premenstrual tension.
2. Energy: Dark chocolate has a low GI – similar to that of oats – so it won’t send your blood sugar skyrocketing.
3. Circulation: The antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to boost circulation.
4. Blood pressure: Research has shown that eating a 100g bar of chocolate every day may reduce high blood pressure.
5. Libido: Dark chocolate contains phenylalanine, which has been shown to increase the desire for sex.
Choose your chocolate with care. Dark chocolate has lower sugar content and contains more antioxidants. If you choose chocolate with nuts in it will contain more protein, leaving you feeling more satisfied.
Limit yourself to a few squares of dark rather than a whole bar of creamy milk and you’ll cut calories too.
But remember, dark chocolate may contain some good stuff, but it also contains lots of fat and calories.
Whether you’re celebrating a religious festival, eating out, or even staying in watching television, for many chocoholics it’s incredibly hard to avoid temptation.
In fact some would say chocolate is better than sex. I remember the night of my honeymoon. We walked into the bedroom, both seeing the inviting bed in front of us, and as we approached to consummate our vows, my new wife saw lying on the pillow a box of Belgium chocolates. Our love making was no longer on her mind. Some things never changed.
To me a little of something you like, is ok, as long as most of the time you follow the principles of a healthy lifestyle.
So, now Easter is over why not start on your healthy lifestyle journey? Here’s one last treat before you’re good again.
So, if you had to choose between either sex or chocolate for the rest of you life which would you choose and why?