Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Chocolate Moratorium


suspension of activity

This has been the most difficult habit or activity that I have curbed in recent times.I am CHOCOLATE SOBER from the 3rd of January,2013.People who know me really well know how much I love the taste of chocolate or should I say loved ? 

The first 3 days were crazy and very difficult (truth be told) but over time,I have realized that there is no craving at all.Very simple yet profound,I am bigger than an inanimate square or bar of pleasure.

It is one of the most common cravings in the world..But,where is that line between a craving and an addiction ?

If you cannot do without a piece of chocolate everyday,that is definitely termed as an addiction.

We generally crave foods due to external prompts and our emotional state, rather than actual hunger. We tend to be bored, anxious, or depressed immediately before experiencing cravings, so one way of explaining cravings is "self-medication for feeling miserable".

Chocolate is the most frequently craved food in women, and many women describe themselves as ‘chocoholics.’ (men,too)..come on gentlemen we like company (in wellness and in health and in moratoriums).Chocoholics insist that it is habit-forming, that it produces an instant feeling of well-being, and even that abstinence leads to withdrawal symptoms.

When we eat sweet and high-fat foods, including chocolate, serotonin is released, making us feel happier. This partly explains the cravings common in seasonal affective  disorder (SAD) and pre-menstrual syndrome.
In many women, the craving occurs on a monthly cycle, which suggests a hormonal issue. A recent report in the New Scientist magazine suggests people can become overly dependent on the sugar and fat in fast food. Dr. John Hoebel ,Princeton University researcher found that rats fed on sugar became anxious when the sugar was removed. Their symptoms included chattering teeth and the shakes – similar to those seen in people withdrawing from nicotine or morphine. Dr. Hoebel believes high-fat foods stimulate opioids or “pleasure chemicals” in the brain. This theory is backed up by many other studies.
Just think about it,there is a reason why refined sugar and other "addictive" substances are both powdery white in colour ?.EUREKA..

My "moratorium"journey has been filled with different observations and I am making non-chocolate choices and surprisingly there are many of them..I am not going to beat myself up and be on a chocolate moratorium for life but this is definitely a good start.Hoping that I would inspire my good friend,very visible chocolate addict Hari to quit.

Chocolate contains several biologically active ingredients, all of which can cause abnormal behaviors and psychological sensations like those of other addictive substances. Researchers at the University of Tampere in Finland found that self-proclaimed chocolate “addicts” salivated more in the presence of chocolate, and showed a more negative mood and higher anxiety. 

Chocolate is seen as “naughty but nice” — tasty, but something which should be resisted. This suggests that the desire is more likely a cultural phenomenon than a physical one. The inability to control eating may be a result of inborn traits and today’s environment.
“Humans used to have to search for food,” according to Baylor College of Medicine researcher Dr. Ken Goodrick. “Now food searches us out.”

The stress of modern living often makes us turn to food for comfort, then return to a restrictive diet. The attempt to restrain ourselves before we are satisfied increases the desire for chocolate.

HOW TO QUIT CHOCOLATE (at least for some time..)

For most chocoholics,giving up chocolate for more than a week seems completely impossible..
But,just imagine how you would feel if you had more power than something that is wrapped in paper !?!

I ask many of my patients to give up or restrict many food items during the course of their treatment for different ailments.So,I decided to put myself to the test and the following are tried and tested (by me) and believe me..they WORK..

1.First of all it is important to determine if your craving for chocolate is emotional..
Stress is a very common reason..emotional stress..issues with your primary relationship or friendships..self-esteem..anger or even depression..
I realized that for me it was a combination of not having enough time to do the things I really wanted to do for myself and my wellness.Some relationships that had suddenly gone bitter and sad.Some situations where I had no closure and so on.All our lives are similar and I realized very quickly that I was using chocolate as my "feel good" drug of choice and I was not going to continue on that path.I just told myself so.

2.I realized that moderation is "not" the key.Like I often say in my lectures,you can never be a little pregnant.You are either pregnant or not.It is that simple.Very binary.
I did try to quit in December last year and my internal sense of moderation was completely messed up when the stresses and emotions of everyday life built up.
Matters were made worse by a visit to New York and "Chocolate by a Bald Man"(fantastic place to visit,taste and rejoice when you are planning your chocolate moratorium).
So,I decided to quit cold turkey..NO MORE CHOCOLATE was my mantra of quitting and it has worked so far.It is beyond will and self control.It is a constant dialogue,sometimes a monologue,in some instances,silence.But,it works..

3.Do not eat anything especially chocolate if you are bored.I do not have this issue cause I am seldom bored but if you are feeling bored and/or restless.It is a good idea to distract your mind with a book,a new recipe,emails,cleaning your clutter,running errands or calling a friend.The craving will pass.

4.I always eat healthy but I have kept and keep even more healthy food nearby.I ate and eat more fruits ,cut vegetables and marinated vegetables.I replaced my sugar or chocolate craving with Justin's vanilla or maple almond butter.Even though I knew this in theory,I realized that when my blood sugar levels were stable,I did not have any cravings.I also started journaling times and emotions of when I felt the cravings.It gave me an opportunity to understand the origin of my cravings and I realized that succumbing to chocolate was just a cover-up procedure.The end result,I know myself better from a deep place within.

5.I did NOT throw away all the chocolate from my home or my work.I kept it all and initially would see it often and salivate but then over a period of time,it is there and I am there and I do not have any emotions or cravings towards it.When I finally decide to give up on my moratorium,I will have a little bit here and there but I know for sure that the craving will not be as severe as before,especially last year.

6.I have had that stubborn 23.5 lbs to lose for years.(I have no one except myself to blame).This seemed the best time.I have a fabulous support group of friends who go to the gym with me almost everyday and I do take walks with people who I have to meet rather than be in a closed office space.The outdoors does a lot of good and who does not like fresh air !
My excess calories are burning and my metabolic rate is on the rise.Exercise releases endorphins,which works against stress and hormonal imbalances.

7.List the people in your life who you are truly grateful for and dedicate your moratorium to them.

8.Find an alternative energy boost.Some things that have worked for me are steamed kale or spinach,almond butter,goji berries,fresh fruits and marinated vegetables.

9.Go see your dentist,you will be told that your chocolate habit has not been kind to your teeth.That will inspire you to commence your moratorium.

Chocolate addiction is not a "true addiction".But,the release of endorphins brought about by eating chocolate creates a physical dependency to obtain the mood "high" over and over,thereby suggesting it is possible to be addicted to chocolate.What I understood is,however you "sugar"coat it,it is hard to resist chocolate..A combination of craving,physiological reasons,emotions,taste and a sugar high is like trying to fight off a dragon that is breathing fire at you when your ship is caught in the high seas.Yes,it is that bad..

There might be other reasons,some very deep rooted in your sub-conscious,some from childhood,fears,etc that are contributing to such behavior.It is a good idea to start journaling to get some of these emotions out of you..In some severe cases,if you find yourself hoarding chocolate in a stash,it is time to see a therapist.

If you find yourself arguing that chocolate has benefits,the famous "anti-oxidant excuse",as I call it.You are lying to yourself and convincing yourself that your chocolate does not have nutritionally empty calories,when in reality it does.This will add to your weight issues if you are on the fat battle or will contribute towards making you a low energy person.Chocolate definitely has benefits,good health benefits,antioxidants et al but the fat and the sugar content do not help.

Maybe,you are not happy until you have consumed your chocolate everyday.Maybe,it has taken over your life as a habit.This prolonged habit is creating chemical imbalances in your body.Sure enough,the one square of chocolate soon becomes one bar.Create a healthy habit,if you have issues with your will power,do not keep chocolate at work or at home or in your car or in your purse or in your anything.Humans are hunter gatherers by DNA and we WILL find it ,if we know it is there.
Maybe,your body is signaling you to stop eating chocolate and you are so addicted that you do not stop to notice or you just succumb and ignore.
The truth is you will lack in energy,half an hour or so after eating chocolate,what is other wise called the sugar crash and most people eat more chocolate to counter act this effect.
I do have some patients and friends who just plain lie about eating chocolate,because they know that they have people in their life who will disapprove.Many also do not tell the truth when asked out of shame.People feel that they have betrayed those who love and care about them.
I have noticed that my skin is doing much better.I do not have even the occasional female monthly breakouts.I do not put my body through nutritional stress or strain.I tell myself that I own my body and I am going to take very good care of it.
I have a patient who is on minimal wage but she has a strange addiction to very expensive brands of chocolate and she told me recently that most of her cheque is going towards chocolate.I told her to meet a financial manager and he was able to help her with what a therapist failed at.Choose your "help"heroes.
Many eat chocolate as a meal to save money,especially students.Common brands have other crap as ingredients and it is inexpensive and readily available.
You could probably be addicted to it because of the mere pleasure and memory of chocolate.The fact that it helped you heal through a miserable break-up or a pink slip or so you think.

Once you have identified the reason or reasons behind what is making you crave chocolate,deal with it in a very healthy and methodic way.Be sincere,kind,calm,compassionate and patient with yourself.

Do not substitute other unhealthy foods to take the place of chocolate..Make healthy choices.Think of your body as a place of worship.No littering allowed.

It is normal to feel withdrawal symptoms.Distract and do not procrastinate on the start date of your moratorium.Some people even get flu like symptoms when they quit.Some have emotional highs and lows,Some even get depressed.Drink a lot of water,take a walk,stay motivated.Keep your friends and family in the loop to help.

I have more respect for myself now and it feels good to know that I am the boss of my body.No craving is worth the treasure of your wonderful mind,body and soul..

If you would like to connect and share your journey with me,please do email me on

Good Luck !