Though sugar wasn’t added until the 1800s, chocolate (made from cacao seeds) has been a rich treat for thousands of years. Since then, it’s been considered everything from a health food to a junk food, and it’s the mainstay of many food cravings.
Helping clients deconstruct their cravings is an important part of health coaching. For many, chocolate is a frequent craving, but what does it mean?
Here are a few possible reasons behind a chocolate craving:
Stress In general, food cravings are most likely to occur when you’re stressed out. Cravings for sweet foods like chocolate are an especially attractive option during this time because they offer a boost of endorphins that you tend to seek out to help cope with stress.
Although a small amount of stress can be a good thing, chronic stress can take a major toll on health. Try managing your stress levels by taking time for self-care, deep breathing, and practicing gratitude.
Exhaustion If you’re overtired, you’re more likely to crave energy-dense foods, such as chocolate, to help increase your energy levels – of course, the energy only lasts for so long before your energy levels dip and you begin seeking out the next energy source. Overall, lack of sleep leads to a decrease in dietary quality – you’re often eating more in quantity, eating less-desirable food choices, and eating later at night.
If you feel this may be contributing to your cravings, you may want to start a sleep journal to take inventory of your sleeping habits and look for any correlation to cravings that may come up during the day.
Preoccupation Chocolate is a food that is excluded from most diets focused on weight loss. Therefore, although people are trying to restrict their intake, it may actually end up amplifying the desire to eat it. In other words, the more you try to avoid chocolate, the more your brain is thinking about it and the more likely you are to binge on it when you see it.
If you have thoughts of chocolate dancing in your head, it may be helpful to explore your feelings around it as well as your larger relationship with food. You might start by asking: “How do I feel not eating chocolate will affect me? What do I think will happen if I eat it?” In this case, eating chocolate mindfully – truly savoring the experience – means you are more likely to be satisfied with less and therefore less likely to binge.
Habit Another reason you might crave chocolate might simply be out of habit. For example, ever heard of the three o’clock slump? This is when people may experience an energy drop and are more likely to seek out snacks, like chocolate, that will help get them through the day. Sometimes, this can develop into a habit where people end up reaching for chocolate regardless of their energy levels.
If you find yourself consistently craving chocolate during a certain time of day, around certain people, or at certain places, it may be simply out of habit.
Environmental Cues The environment is constantly providing cues about what to eat. If you see an advertisement for a chocolate bar, you might be more likely to crave it. Also, you may simply crave foods that you’re exposed to in your environment. For example, if there’s a chocolate cake in the office, it’s more likely that you’re going to want to have a piece.
The best way to navigate environmental food cues is with mindful awareness of the messages you may be receiving about food throughout the day.
Another potential reason to explore is hormonal fluctuations (especially throughout the menstrual cycle).
Today, there is so much variation in what “chocolate” may be referring to, and some types are more health supportive than others. If you find yourself craving chocolate frequently, be mindful of added sugar content and try to opt for chocolate with higher cacao percentages (65% or higher) to get the most antioxidant benefits.
When it comes to craving chocolate, like any craving, explore its roots with a nonjudgmental curiosity.
Do you crave chocolate often? Tell us how you manage your cravings!
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