How to stop eating chocolate?

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How to stop eating chocolate?
How to stop eating chocolate?

Learning how to stop eating chocolate is often painted as an all-or-nothing approach: either give it up for good or carry on as normal. With it being such a common dessert and a popular go-to sweet though, it’s not always feasible to stop eating it forever.

But unless you want to go into a full chocolate detox or start eating healthy chocolate exclusively, there’s no need to give it up for good if you’re just looking to cut back and reduce your sugar cravings. Here, our experts lay out everything you need to know about how to stop eating chocolate and rid yourself of those chocolate addiction symptoms once and for all

IS CHOCOLATE REALLY ADDICTIVE?

Yes, chocolate has the potential to create addiction-like cravings. This is partially due to the high amount of sugar in the sweet treat, but also because of the habit and reward we associate with it.

A later study by the University of California(opens in new tab) confirms this idea, as they discovered that fructose, a sugar additive found in many mass-produced chocolate products, adds to our drive to eat sweet foods as it increases the feeling of hunger—even when we’re full.

It’s not just the sugar that makes it so hard to give up chocolate though, nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan(opens in new tab) says. “The more you eat and more often you have it, the more your brain drives you to seek it out.” The repetitive nature of snacking only compounds the effect, she adds, and it can lead us to believe we’re actually addicted to chocolate. “If you always have chocolate after your evening meal, for example, then you will have a craving for it at that time.”

Certain triggers, like stress, can also increase our urge to eat sweet foods as pressure on the body’s central nervous system plays an especially big role in how we react to food. As the University of California study explains, the body produces a hormone called cortisol when we’re stressed. It also inhibits the production of leptin, which is the hormone that signals to the brain that we’re full. Without the feeling of fullness, we’re likely to eat more than we should. It’s one of the many health-related reasons to learn how to deal with stress on a long-term basis.

HOW TO STOP EATING CHOCOLATE

1. DRINK A LARGE GLASS OF WATER

If you want to stop sugar cravings in their tracks, hydration is key. Even a very low level of dehydration can lead to feelings of tiredness, as well as temporary low blood pressure, elevated heart rate and headaches. It’s a combination that often leads to us seeking out comfort food—like chocolate, according to the University of Mississippi.

“Without a daily sugar fix, our bodies aren’t getting the same amount of glucose as they’re used to,”  nutritionist and lead scientist at Food Marble(opens in new tab). “Our liver stores glucose in the form of glycogen but without water, it can’t be released.

Drinking water and other healthy drinks continuously throughout the day will certainly help with this, she adds. “It can keep us from getting thirsty and it allow the liver to release stored glucose, stopping us from going for sugar or chocolate to fill the gap.”

2. AVOID FOOD AND DRINK THAT ARE HIGH IN SUGAR

When it comes to sugary foods like chocolate, it’s unfortunately the case that the more you eat, the more you want to eat. “If we have a lot of foods high in sugar earlier in the day, we tend to eat more high-sugar foods later on. So by cutting down on sugary foods in the morning, you will soon start to see a reduction in your chocolate cravings,” says Dr Shortt.

Avoiding sugary foods also includes drinks, however, and many people often forget that alcohol is one of the worst culprits when it comes to sugar content. With the average gin and tonic containing up to four teaspoons of it, it’s not surprising that we often crave sweet foods the morning after a heavy night of drinking. Known as a sugar hangover, consuming lots of sugar in a short space of time will lead to feelings of nausea, headaches and an upset stomach just as too much alcohol will.

But rather than putting you off a chocolate bar the following day, you’re more likely to crave it to compensate. “Low blood sugar, dopamine and serotonin levels and increased cortisol is the perfect recipe for cravings,” Dr McMillan stresses.

To reduce the chance of a chocolate craving the morning after, line your stomach with plenty of rich carbohydrates before you go out. Classic hangover cures, like alternating between soft and alcoholic drinks, drinking water before you go to sleep and eating a hearty, protein-rich breakfast in the morning will also be key here.

3. GO COLD TURKEY FOR TWO WEEKS

When it comes to stopping eating chocolate in the long term, the first thing to do is go cold turkey for at least two weeks. Giving up chocolate completely during this time will allow your hormones to rebalance while you break those old habits and begin to form new ones,

But there’s no denying that cutting anything out of your diet straight away is going to be tough and kicking a chocolate habit is as much a physical process as a mental one.

“You may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, lethargy and irritability. But, as your insulin sensitivity stabilises, your cravings will begin to subside,” says Dr McMillan. “Follow a high-fibre diet and eat protein-rich foods to keep you feeling satisfied. Choose options with a low glycemic index, which release their energy slowly to keep you feeling fuller for longer.”

While you’ll still undoubtedly have to turn down chocolate plenty of times, there’s one way to make it easier on yourself. “Remove the temptation,” nutritionist Dr McMillan suggests, “If you can’t get rid of it, stash it out of sight. If you tend to make a pitstop at your favourite patisserie on your way home from work, plot a new route. Can’t resist a 2-4-1 offer when you do the weekly shop? Order online.”

4. TAKE A MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENT

There are so many benefits of magnesium, from lowering the risk of a stroke to being one of the natural cures for insomnia. So it’s really no surprise that magnesium can help stop chocolate cravings in their tracks.

“Magnesium plays a big role in regulating blood sugar levels, and a deficiency can cause cravings. So taking a supplement for magnesium or eating foods with lots of it can really help with managing cravings,” Dr Shortt explains.

But  chocolate that contains 70 to 85% cocoa is itself a good source of magnesium, she adds. “This is particularly relevant for the millions of people who suffer from lactose intolerance. Since dark chocolate contains really low levels of lactose too, those who have the intolerance can get their chocolate (and magnesium) fix without the risk of symptoms.”

5. CREATE AN ACTION PLAN TO STOP CHOCOLATE CRAVINGS

Having an action plan ready to hand when chocolate cravings come up is one of the most successful ways to kick the habit. This could include useful swaps that are similar to chocolate, such as granola bars and other high-protein snacks.

Dr McMillan says, “Crave chocolate-chip cookies when the post-lunch slump hits? Bake some quick no-sugar cookies at home and have these instead. If you crack open the biscuit tin after dinner, make yourself a mug of sugar-free hot  chocolate.”

While it won’t have the same taste as  chocolate, you won’t have the sugar crash that promptly follows either, meaning you’ll have more energy to see you through the evening.

Or, your action plan could be actually removing yourself from the temptation in front of you. “If you eat chocolate when pressure gets the better of you, plan to take a 10-minute walk or do a 3-minute meditation break after a potentially stressful situation,” advises Dr McMillan.

6. BE REALISTIC ABOUT GIVING UP CHOCOLATE

As the saying goes, everyone wants something they can’t have. While those who don’t enjoy a chocolate biscuit or bar are unlikely to miss it, cutting out chocolate for those who like it is going to be a struggle.

“Self-denial will only make it more appealing and, in its purest form, it does come packed with health benefits,” says Dr McMillan. “After two or three weeks, try reintroducing small amounts into your diet. We’re talking a square or two of high-quality dark chocolate once or twice a week.”

Food scientist Dr Shortt agrees. If you enjoy eating chocolate but sometimes find it hard to keep to a few squares, try dark chocolate with over 70% cocoa. “This has significantly less sugar, so it’s much less addictive. Interestingly, for this type of chocolate to become addictive, you would need to eat 1kg of 70% dark chocolate every single day for 2 weeks before you start craving it like you might crave caffeine.”

But ultimately, if a bar of Dairy Milk is what you’re really craving, it’s almost always better to give in. “Niggling feelings of guilt will only make you want it more, eat more of it and enjoy it less, so give yourself permission and eat mindfully, immersing yourself in the experiences of taste, texture and aroma,” Dr McMillan says.