A chocolate bar-a-day keeps the body fat away. Too good to be true? That’s because it is. This didn’t stop the news, and even respected health magazines, from picking up an intentionally fake chocolate diet weight loss study based entirely on junk science.
The study was carried out by a science journalist who wanted to prove that bad information can find its way in front of the public as long as it’s interesting enough. If someone runs a study with a tiny sample size, and loose enough research standards, they can prove just about anything they want. Even that some chocolate diet is the miracle cure for weight loss.
Fads and Wishful Thinking
It’s somewhat natural to see something unbelievable like a chocolate bar helping weight loss and believe it because we want it to be true. Most of us would take chocolate over steamed broccoli any day of the week.
If you stir-in the added credibility of Dr. Oz, or Shape magazine, it’s no wonder so many people get suckered into all kinds of fads.
We need to hold our media, and so-called health gurus, to a higher standard. However, we also need to be aware that the brain of an emotional eater is always searching for ways to justify questionable eating habits. If we can’t recognize these patterns then we will stay victims to passing fads and wishful thinking.
Don’t know if you’re an emotional eater? Find out here
Paleo Practitioners Love Chocolate. What’s The Deal?
The fake study doesn’t change the fact that many people in the paleo and primal community including Mark Sisson, love dark chocolate. There’s a good reason for that. Raw chocolate and even dark chocolate above 80% cacao definitely have a few upsides. For example, they are a good source of antioxidants and iron.
There is, unfortunately, a dark side (pun intended)
Emotional eaters are especially subject to food triggers. When you are trying to tame your sugar dragon the last thing you need is to poke him. This is what happens when someone with addictive tendencies tries to eat chocolate.
If you quickly lose control, it’s not your fault. After eating chocolate your brain releases a few chemicals including endorphins and dopamine. These are happy hormones that make you feel great when you’re falling in love.
These are also released with cigarettes and alcohol. It’s no wonder so many struggle with addiction with these substances when they can put us into a state of chemically-induced bliss.
If only we could get our kale chips to do that!
Now, you may think you can control a little bit of chocolate. And afterall, even I said there were minerals and antioxidants to be had (see how easy it is to justify eating choices to yourself).
Trust me, you’re not missing anything from skipping chocolate altogether. You can get antioxidants and minerals elsewhere without any of the drawbacks.
Blueberries, blackberries, and pecans are all perfect examples of ways to get antioxidants into your lunch bag. As a bonus, you don’t have to worry about them melting if you live in a warmer climate.
If it’s the minerals you’re after then dried fruits like raisins, or dried apricots may be a good option as they are high in both iron and magnesium.
Besides, chocolate is high in phytic acid, so consumption in larger amounts makes it harder for your body to use the minerals you were getting from the chocolate in the first place. If that’s not bad enough, this phytic acid can cause inflammation or make existing inflammation in the body even worse.
Other concerns for those who over-indulge in chocolate of any kind, but especially non-dark varieties, include weight gain, higher risk of diabetes, cavities, and upset stomachs.
Sweet foods like chocolate can also hack your brain so you actually can continue to crave after your stomach is full.
How Chocolate Hacks Your Brain For Overeating
Have you ever noticed that when you’re eating at a restaurant and you reach the point of being full, the remaining food isn’t nearly as appetizing as when it first hit your table?
Dessert however, sounds absolutely amazing.
There is a perfectly good explanation for it. It’s called habituation. This is the theory that as you eat more of the same tasting food (like your sandwich) you get full from it, but you still have room for food with a different flavor profile like something sweet. It’s like having a second stomach just for chocolate and ice cream!
An experiment looking at calorie intake from people eating just one type of sandwich versus a variety of different kinds of sandwiches showed a 15% increase in calories from those who ate the variety. That’s without adding the extra layer of sweet from dessert.
All this proves what you already know. Your stomach being full has nothing to do with you ordering that dessert, or eating a chocolate bar. If you choose to eat chocolate, not only do you put yourself at risk of bingeing, but you also will consume more calories of that chocolate than you would if you continued eating your regularly planned meal.
So I Can Never Eat Chocolate Again?
You may be thinking I’m trying to say that nobody should ever eat chocolate. That’s not the case. Some people will be fine, but emotional eaters will be taking a risk, one that usually ends badly.
If you’re anything like I was, you will justify this risk and then be sorry you did. Emotional eaters always want to believe they can handle “just one bite”. But who really wants one bite, anyway? No, we don’t stop at one, we keep going until the bag or box is finished. Then we feel stuffed, still and ashamed of our loss of control.
Being out of control with food is a demoralizing experience, and one that emotional eaters know too well. The causes are deeper than just liking food a little too much. Our emotional ties to food must be addressed in order to overcome the tendency to overeat on foods like chocolate and other sweets.
We must also recognize that both sugar and chocolate are physically addictive, and even if we are emotionally balanced, the physical craving can make it difficult to have only one bite, bar or section of chocolate.
If you must have your daily dose of chocolate, I recommend only dark chocolate with 85% or above of cacao and look for a sweetener that doesn’t have the same glycemic load as sugar, like erythritol, xylitol or stevia.
But if you can’t eat “just one” without wanting more, you’re better off having a piece of fruit.
If you would like to know more about how you can overcome emotional eating, and build a healthy relationship with food, you can do so in the 7-simple steps I refer to in my book, Heal Your Hunger.