Chocoholics Anonymous…

Aoife Ryan investigates…is there such a thing?

Hi I’m Aoife and I’m a chocoholic.

It’s something we’ve all heard of, but it’s not taken all that seriously. So, can you actually be addicted to chocolate? With Easter eggs everywhere this month, it’s hard to avoid the stuff… but for some people it’s a year-round struggle.

There are three components that need to be seen for something to be classified as an addiction:
Intense cravings
Loss of control
Continued use despite negative consequences

Looking at it lightly, all three can be associated with chocolate.

Chocolate is the most craved food. It’s not unheard of for people to pop out to the supermarket late at night for their chocolate fix. We mostly crave food because of influencing external factors and our emotional state rather than because of psychical hunger. Before a chocolate craving, most likely you will have been feeling some sort of negative emotion, like boredom, anxiety, or just feeling a bit down. When we eat chocolate, serotonin is released in the brain making us feel instantly happier. Many people form a habit of reaching for the chocolate whenever they are under any emotional stress; this habit is what makes the cravings so strong – we feel we need it.

Loss of control is less common with chocolate lovers, but it does happen. Chocolate has a good mix of sugar and fat in it, which means we can eat more of it without feeling sick. So it’s up to us to decide when enough is enough, and quite often, especially around the holidays, people go overboard. Some people can keep a box of chocolates in the cupboard for weeks, maybe taking one every now and then with their cup of tea, or having it to take out when people are visiting. A lot of others would have that box gone in a matter of days. Finding a balance is very important – everything in moderation. Trying to stop over-indulging so often could help reduce cravings and make you feel better overall.

Continuing to eat chocolate despite negative consequences is definitely true in self-proclaimed chocoholics. There might be plenty of healthy options but some people will choose chocolate over them despite knowing that that it’s not as good for them. Chocolate has high levels of saturated fat and sugar. Too much saturated fat in the diet raises blood cholesterol, putting you at risk of heart disease and stroke. The high sugar content in chocolate has no nutritional value and often leads to weight gain, and in some cases type 2 diabetes. If chocolate is something you can’t give the boot, then it’s important to remember to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet while keeping the amount of chocolate you do eat low.

So, chocoholism does seem to exist in today’s society. Although it’s not an addiction that will affect someone’s life in the way drug or alcohol addiction would, it is still definitely real. An emotional dependence is developed with chocolate for some people, they feel they need it to improve their mood and make them feel better. Unfortunately, this feeling is often only temporary, and then a feeling of guilt sets in – and a cycle of negative emotions begins. Breaking this cycle can be a challenge, but it’s something that gets easier every day. By making some lifestyle changes and choosing other snacks over chocolate some days, the cravings will feel less strong and you can start enjoying chocolate in a healthier way.