Saturday, September 26, 2009
We were having a "delicious" conversation the other day on a list serve that I belong to. One member explained that she struggled with overeating when she was younger, but is now an attuned/intuitive eater. She has always had a "sweet tooth" and continues to crave chocolate almost everyday - she becomes crabby if she wants it, but it's not available. Yet when she eats chocolate, she feels completely satisfied - sometimes after a few bites, sometimes after more -and doesn't feels uncomfortably full or that she is overeating/bingeing. She wondered if because of her need for chocolate every day, and sometimes more than once a day, people might consider her to be addicted to chocolate.
Here was my response:
"The beauty of intuitive/attuned eating is that everyone gets to decide what types of foods are right for them. So, you are someone who needs chocolate every day - enjoy! As you said, you feel good after you eat it and stop when you've had enough - you sound very in tune with yourself. In my work with clients, I rarely share the types of food that I eat because I don't want someone to ever think that there is a "right" way to feed oneself. But the one thing I do find myself offering from time to time is that I eat chocolate every day (and often I'm in the mood for sweets more than once a day...). I want to normalize that because it's still so much of the diet mentality that has seeped into our culture to think that somehow you shouldn't have sweets every day.
As for the thought that maybe a craving for sweet is a need for fruit (mentioned by another list serve member) chocolate and apples feel really different in your body. Sometimes I want chocolate and sometimes I want an apple, and I'd be as off eating an apple when I crave chocolate as I would eating chocolate when I crave an apple. Again, listening and taking out the judgement are key."
Our list serve discussion got me thinking more about chocolate. I had just finished a novel in which one of the characters, a precocious 12 year old girl, briefly contemplates her love of chocolate:
"This afternoon, after school, there was no one at home. I took some hazelnut chocolate from the kitchen and went to eat it in the living room. I was comfortably settled on the sofa, nibbling on my chocolate and ruminating on my next profound thought. I was thinking it would be a profound thought about chocolate or the way you nibble it, in particular, with a central question: what is it that is so good about chocolate? The substance itself, or the technique of chewing it?"
Just what is so good about chocolate? I'm at a loss of words myself to describe what makes it so wonderful. But I do know that it appeals to a lot of us, especially women. In fact, nutritionist Debra Waterhouse has an entire book devoted to this topic called Why Women Need Chocolate. When Ellen and I wrote Beyond a Shadow of a Diet, our book for mental health professionals, we included the following:
"Debra Waterhouse emphasizes that female food cravings are a 'normal, biological need for a specific food that will balance a woman's body and mind and revitalize her well-being.' She explains the brain chemistry of food cravings, noting that sugar and fat from chocolate boost serotonin and endorphin levels, resulting in positive mood and renewed energy. 'No study has ever found that women frequently crave tofu, Spam, or nonfat cottage cheese, and no study has ever found that men frequently crave chocolate...Only women crave these foods consistently.' "
Many years ago I had a booth at a health fair. A woman looked over my materials and said, "No, I don't have a problem with food. Except that I like to eat some chocolate every day" I explained to her that eating chocolate was natural and fine, and she replied, "You mean I can stop feeling guilty?" "Absolutely," I told her. What a shame that she had to feel that eating chocolate was "sinful" in the first place, but how nice that she seemed willing to let that belief go.
So back to my own chocolate cravings! While some women notice an increase in their desire for chocolate prior to menstruation, I like to eat chocolate all month long. When I eat chocolate it's because in addition to the way it tastes, it gives me just the right feeling physically in my body. Sometimes I prefer it with a glass of milk, sometimes I prefer it by itself. But I always make sure I have some with me wherever I go - to work, on vacation, at a conference.
I was in Costa Rica a couple of years ago, and, thankfully, had brought some chocolate with me. A woman on the trip was celebrating her birthday and said the only thing missing was some chocolate; she liked to have some every day, and couldn't find any at the hotel. I told her that I had chocolate in my room and would be happy to share some with her. Her face lit up - and I was glad to give her this small gift. Yes, you can always rely on me to have chocolate on hand!
So am I "addicted" to chocolate? I also happen to eat a banana every day, but I've never heard of anyone talking about an addiction to bananas! Like my list serve colleague, I eat chocolate in a way that's a perfect match for me.
And I don't need advertisements to tell me things like: My Moment - My Dove. I'll eat my Dove chocolates whenever I'm hungry for them, but not as a way to take time for myself - as women, we need to take time for ourselves when we need it, without feeling that we need to use food as an excuse to slow down. Yet the act of relishing my chocolate - or whatever food I'm hungry for at a particular time - does make for a satisfying moment.
If you're a chocolate lover, enjoy your cravings and the satisfaction that comes from this amazing substance. And if you have a way to describe just what it is about chocolate that tastes so good, please feel free to give it a try!
Eat well! Live well! Be well!