Do you have trouble leaving chocolate alone? Most people do, here's why... [Dieting after sixty]

The Mayans and the Aztecs believed chocolate to be the food of the gods. Nowadays the terminology we use for those who love chocolate is a ‘chocoholic’. This high sugar, high fat processed food is very addictive and it can be hard for many people to control the volume they consume.

The three elements of addiction have been determined as:

  1. Intense craving.
  2. Loss of control over that craving.
  3. Continual use or consumption despite the consequences.

Studies have confirmed that with chocolate people can have all three of the above.


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Pouring Chocolate

Many people can also experience psychological reactions while eating chocolate. Such as intense pleasure and an almost uncontrollable craving for more. These are similar reactions that those taking hard drugs would have.

Stress and many other factors are responsible for any addiction. Even if people have managed to control their addictions they can regress under stress. For those that use food as their stress relief they will usually want to medicate themselves with their food of choice and for many millions it’s ‘chocolate’.

Those addicted to other things like cigarettes, alcohol, pain medications or hard drugs can usually work on giving them up although of course it’s never easy. It is very different for those addicted to food, as eating is required for our survival. So obviously we can’t stop eating. But many of the foods that overweight people resort to aren’t usually natural healthy foods that are required for a healthy body. They are usually sugar and fat laden processed food that most people have access to now at any time.

Our supermarkets gondola ends are usually laden with slabs of chocolate for sale, nowadays even premium brands like I are offered on special at times for two bars for $5. There are also a myriad of house brands of chocolate for those on a budget at amazingly low prices. When I ate chocolate I was in love with chocolate bullets and Snicker bars. Although I would often resort to anything I could get my hands on, especially if I was emotionally upset over something major like another marriage break up or similar.

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In many cases, it really isn’t the chocolate that’s making the person feel good, it’s the release of the endorphins. These are released after the consumption of chocolate and can create a change in a person’s mood that in turn can create a physical dependency to retain the mood. It’s similar to when the exercise junkies exert themselves, the hormones that are release into their bodies after exercise makes them feel good and makes them want to work out again as soon as they can.

I discovered during my research that there are other foods that can raise the level of substances in the brain similar to the effect of chocolate that you may want to consider:

  • Strawberries. They contain Pecargonidin that can change our mood for the better.
  • Bananas. They contain a starchy carbohydrate that sustains a good mood.
  • Grapes. High in endorphin producing vitamin C.
  • Oranges. High in endorphin producing vitamin C, B and flavonoids
  • Nuts. Rich in B vitamins, proteins + selenium a mineral which can have positive mood changing properties.
  • Bread is also a good source of energy and contains vitamin B complex. If eaten warm it has been found to be very comforting. Bread is my own food of choice for comfort.

If you have identified that chocolate is one of the five main reasons you are overweight you may want to consider stocking up with strawberries, bananas, grapes, oranges or nuts for when you have a craving.

Chocolate cravings can be very hard to stop but once you decide to reduce your chocolate consumption you really only have two options. You can decide to give it up altogether or decide to just cut down. If you are going to try and give up you should also try not going anywhere near the confectionery aisles in the supermarkets and definitely don’t keep a supply of goodies at home anymore. If you’re going to try cutting down, buy only a small bar of 80% cocoa chocolate and try and make it last a week. What you shouldn’t do is just replace chocolate with crisps and other sweet treats such as biscuits and cakes.

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In the last few years there has been a lot said about ‘how good chocolate is for you’, unfortunately this is often industry funded so be aware of who is likely to benefit from promoting chocolate as being healthy. Chocolate can also be responsible for people getting headaches and for those with sleeping problems eating chocolate at night can potentially keep you awake. As well as caffeine, chocolate has other stimulants, like the Obromin that can increase the heart rate and cause sleeplessness. The National Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding chocolate, coffee, tea and soft drinks in the evening.

Many chocolate eaters can feel guilty about their chocolate consumption because many times they often scoff down a large bar without even realising they have eaten it all. The so-called experts say just have a small square and savour the flavour and then you will have a greater appreciation of what you’re eating. I don’t agree. I find that I’m an all or nothing gal and find it much easier to just keep to my strategy of having a chocolate, biscuit, cake and ice cream free zone at home. When eating out I now choose to have an entrée and main course and don’t even look at the dessert menu as I find it’s best not to tempt myself. If at home I still feel like something between or after meals I resort to some roasted unsalted nuts that I measure out into a little bowl and put the packet away before I settle down with my little snack.

There is no easy answer other than getting all of that chocolate out of your house and taking one day at a time. xxx CaroleL


What comfort food do you love most? Have you found a healthier substitute? 

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If you would like me to cover any particular topic in this column please email me at: [email protected] 

Anyone with a BMI over 25 and over the age of 60 should really look seriously at devising an eating plan that has reduced kilojoules. You need an uncomplicated plan that can also fit in with your lifestyle, and one that you can adapt if necessary for unavoidable social events. Please note that Carole is not a physician, dietician or nutritionist. If a reader has any issues about their weight that are medically related then a professional opinion should always be obtained before embarking on any changes or restrictions to their diets.

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Carole Lethbridge is the author of “Online Dating After Sixty: One woman’s journey of love, lust and losers”. She has been both married and single over the last few decades and she has done her own research, gathering extensive data on relationships between females and males. Online Dating After Sixty is available for purchase for $21.50 via Booktopia.