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Kringle, gingerbread cookies, mint marshmallows, cranberry cheesecakes and sugar candies. This holiday season practice social distancing from sweet treats as they beckon you from store aisles, hoardings and a loving grandmas’ oven.
What was once concocted only for the Gods has now come to be one of the worlds’ favorite food with an average American today consuming 11 pounds of chocolate every year.
This fatal attraction has its roots deep in the history of mankind: Deemed essential for the survival of our species, our brains were wired to associate sweets with happiness. Another theory suggests that humans develop a preference for this taste since a mothers’ milk is also sweet.
Now that we have established much more than our survival on this planet and have grown clever enough to recognize the factors conditioning our senses, it is wise to exercise some control in our intake of chocolates in pursuance of the virtue called moderation.
There could be many reasons for craving this mood enhancer-
Biological- Our body craves a sugar-fix when it is low on energy, low on magnesium, is dehydrated or sleep-deprived. Alkaloid compounds (tetrahydro-beta-carbolines), present in chocolates and alcohol, are addictive in nature. Our brain is conditioned to place sweets with reward. Also, a high BMI index is linked to increased cravings.
Psychological – We crave chocolates under stressful or depressing situations as it improves our mood by releasing the happiness hormone- dopamine.
Behavioral- We make it habit-forming when we associate chocolate with any activity like holidaying, watching tv, commuting, dining, etc. Culturally, too, we have made sweets synonymous with festivities. In India, fruits and sweets are categorized as ‘sattvik’ food, which means they are pure in essence and induce feelings of calmness and happiness.
14 ways to starve your chocolate cravings this holiday season are-
Exercising releases endorphins in our body which has an effect similar to that of morphine. Studies show that even a 15minute brisk walk can greatly quell the urge to dig into sweets. Exercising also reduces stress which is another trigger for weight gain.
2 Eat when you are well-fed
Have you ever substituted a bar of cocoa for a meal? Bet, you were left as hungry as before. To reduce your chances of binge eating, eat one after your meal. Top-rated on the glycemic index (rank for its effect on blood sugar levels), chocolates give our body an initial rush. Once the effect wears off we crave for nutrition.
3 Wean off with healthy substitutes
Melt small lumps of jaggery in your mouth. Discover chewy dried figs and dates. Drink a spoonful of honey. As the last option, eat dark chocolates which are more filling.
4 Include more protein in your diet
Adequate protein intake decreases ghrelin levels (a hormone which increases hunger) and increases leptin activity (a hormone which suppresses appetite) in the body. Amino acids contained in the proteins also release dopamine which reduces craving.
5 Chew your food well
Chewing helps food get processed faster in the guts. As a result, the brain registers it sooner and prevents overeating. This works well for chocolates and meals in general.
In the Japanese practice of Hara Hachi Bu, one must stop eating as soon as one feels 80% full. Again, the thought behind it is that the brain takes time to register the last morsel ingested.
6 Eat in small portions
Do not lick clean that tiramisu cup at one go. Break it into smaller servings. Take one spoonful each day and there, you got more bang for your bucks, too.
7 Drink plenty of water-
Dehydration makes it hard for our body to metabolize glucose and subsequently release energy. Hence, it craves sugar for an instant fix. It is recommended to drink at least half a gallon of water everyday.
8 Get adequate sleep
This is perhaps the next best thing to eating chocolate. Lack of sleep is known to cause overeating as it disrupts the body’s natural hormonal balance.
9 Wait it out till the urge dies
Wait for ten minutes. Occupy yourself in some activity. Whoa! You no longer crave that dessert. Cravings come in waves and they eventually subside.
10 Distract your mind
Guide your thoughts to another place. Imagine yourself in your favorite movie or get involved in some chore like cleaning. Did you know that playing a game of Tetris can reduce your craving not just for chocolates but even for drugs, sex and sleep? Hmmm.
11 Accept your cravings
Watch your thoughts, do not fight them. Your cravings may lose their hold over you.
12 Use positive affirmations –
Scroll through pictures of gorgeous dresses you want to fit into. Say to yourself- I can control what I eat. I enjoy what I eat.
13 Form negative associations
Nitpick everything (Is effective in getting over a crush, too). Think of all the evil a bar of cocoa can unleash- make you gain weight, trigger acne, supplement your diet with cockroaches and, on a serious note, continue the exploitation of child labor.
If you love to picturize, then imagine your favorite treat in an unappetizing form. For instance, a dump of turd. (Now you will find the article image at the top less cringy.)
14 Set short-term goals and measure them-
Set a reasonable limit for chocolate consumption on a fortnightly basis. Check your weight regularly to stay motivated.
If the above tips are too overwhelming for your sentimental heart, then here’s one practical advise- Don’t shop them. Simple.
Tldr: Sleep well, exercise regularly and drink plenty of water. Eat chocolate when you are well fed. Include enough proteins in your diet and chew your food well. Eat sweets in small portions at a time. Substitute them with healthier options like dried fruits. Watch your cravings, wait till they die out. Distract your mind. Use positive affirmations to control your cravings and use negative associations to trigger repugnance towards sugar. Set short-term goals for moderate intake and measure the results.