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Are You a "Chocoholic?"

The good news is that you may be able to eat just one.

Do you think you might be a “chocoholic”? Does it seem that whenever you start to eat chocolate you find it hard, if not impossible, to stop after one piece? Does eating chocolate affect your mood? If you think you are addicted to chocolate, what should you do?

For many people who consider themselves “chocoholics,” Valentine’s Day presents extra challenges. Getting a box of chocolates is a mixed blessing. On one hand, it can be a delicious expression of love. On the other, it can also can present unhelpful temptation and possibly trigger a binge.

Although there are no 12-step programs just for chocolate addicts, there are 12-step programs for those who struggle with compulsivity around food. Could a program like Overeaters Anonymous help? Or, if you’d rather avoid support groups, should you just abstain since you fear that a single piece could trigger a binge? The good news is that you don’t need to join a 12-step program or completely give up your favorite treat. Although you may find chocolate to be irresistible, there’s little evidence that it is physiologically addictive.

Substances such as tryptophan, which helps raise serotonin levels in the brain, as well as phenylethylamine, tyramine, and cannabinoids may be present in chocolate. However, these substances are also found in higher concentrations in other foods that aren’t as appealing as chocolate. Eggs, for example, have high levels of tryptophan and phenylethylamine, but few people would consider themselves to be egg addicts.

Ask yourself if you prefer a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar to a dark chocolate bar with 85% cocoa content? Most people prefer milk chocolate. If chocolate is physiologically addicting you would prefer the dark chocolate since the presumed addicting chemicals are present in greater amounts in dark chocolate compared to milk chocolate.

Although chocolate isn’t physiologically addicting, the combination of sugar, fat with its’ “mouth feel,” and the pleasurable sensory experience contribute to the cravings. Here are a few suggestions to help you to enjoy chocolate without overindulging:

  • Save your chocolate for dessert, after you’ve finished a meal. You’ll be less likely to binge since you won’t be hungry. Instead of gobbling a large amount of chocolate you can eat slowly, take small bites, enjoy the experience, and be satisfied with less.
  • Instead of milk chocolate or a combination of chocolate with other ingredients like chocolate chip cookies have some dark chocolate. If you’re craving the chocolate experience, why dilute it?
  • If chocolate ice cream is your downfall, try a chocolate fudge bar (about 100 calories) or a half cup of chocolate nonfat frozen yogurt instead.

So, the good news is that you’re not a chocolate addict. If you get a box of Valentine's chocolate, have one piece after dinner, take a small bite, and let it slowly melt in your mouth, enjoying the experience without feeling guilty or shaming yourself.

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