I think I’ve been addicted to chocolate since I was one. On my first birthday, my mom made a chocolate cake, put it in front of me, and I planted my face into it. I think she even said my first word was chocolate, but I’m probably imagining that part. Let’s just say I have very fond memories of eating chocolate that date way back. In fact, when I think back to my childhood and try to think about eating other favored foods–ice cream, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, cookies–it’s only chocolate that has this strange special feeling attached to it. I remember chocolate eggs at Easter time, devouring chocolate fudge at Christmas time (my favorite “food” ever), and sneaking into the chocolate bars that my brothers were supposed to be selling for Little League. Chocolate is weird like that. It does strange things to people. I remember saying that if someone bought me a box of See’s Candy, then they really loved me. I said this aloud to my husband, so of course he started buying me TWO boxes of chocolates every year for Valentine’s Day.
All of the above mentioned chocolates are laden with sugar, which is clearly not healthful. As I got older, I developed more of a taste for dark chocolate, to the point that I would eschew almost all milk chocolate. I bought fine, fair-trade brands like Green & Blacks, Endangered Species, Seeds of Change, Chocolove and others. It didn’t matter that they cost an average of $3 a bar–they were worth it. It was my weekly indulgence. At first I was able to make one bar last a whole week, but the stress of work and later the stress of motherhood got to me, and I found myself reaching for chocolate more often than I felt comfortable with.
Despite recent health claims for dark chocolate, I’ve never believed it to be a health food. Because how can anything with caffeine in it be good for us? (Have you ever seen the pictures from the spider web study?) Caffeine is a drug, and it is not healthful. So-called “healthy” dark chocolate contains 26mg of caffeine per 1.45g serving. That’s about half the amount found in a cup of brewed tea, and about a quarter the amount found in brewed coffee. Caffeine is also addictive, which for me has proven to be quite problematic. Here is an article that talks about other problems with chocolate.
People often take issue when others say they shouldn’t be consuming their special addictions. They don’t want to give it up, even though it’s not good for them. I was that way with chocolate for a long time. I’d try to just cut back. I tried snacking on other things to reduce the impulse. I even “quit” chocolate for short periods of time. But I always came back to it, which led to binging on it during times of stress. I didn’t kid myself, though. I knew it wasn’t good for me.
During the past year, I was more aware than ever that chocolate was having an ill effect on me. I noticed it was a “catch-all” for various problems that weren’t getting dealt with. If I was stressed, I’d reach for chocolate. If I was tired, I’d reach for chocolate so I could write instead of taking a nap. In fact, nearly every day, as soon as my son went to sleep for his nap, I ran to my computer with chocolate in hand. I often wanted chocolate after meals. I didn’t realize this was my body’s way of telling me I was still hungry. The chocolate would suppress my appetite for a few hours. It literally denied me of nutrients I needed. Did I need more fat? Chocolate. Did I need more carbohydrates? Chocolate. Did I need something sweet like fruit? Chocolate. Did I need more magnesium? CHOCOLATE. Yes, that’s right: Chocolate prevented me from getting enough rest, enough fruit (I’d go days without fruit), enough nutrients, enough FOOD in general. This was all a vicious cycle that simply led to more stress.
I’m not talking huge amounts of chocolate here, either. Usually I would only have one or two squares after a meal, maybe 3 or 4 during my computer time. I usually only had a third of a bar per day. But this small amount of chocolate was having devastating effects on my health. So, three weeks ago, I stopped eating it. I gathered up all my precious chocolate from around the house and threw it in the deep freezer.
I was a little sad, but looked forward to a brighter future. I told myself I could have some again when I was done with GAPS. But if I ever go back, I’m determined that it will only be an occasional treat. I do NOT want to be addicted ever again.
So what’s happened in the last three weeks without chocolate? First, I craved it a lot. Any time I wanted chocolate, I’d just give myself a taste of raw honey. After several days, my chocolate craving turned into a honey craving. That’s about the time that I started the GAPS intro diet. After a few days on GAPS intro, even the honey craving went away. With the cravings out of the way, I can finally eat like I’m supposed to. Now I eat FOOD when I’m hungry–I get NUTRIENTS into my body, instead of anti-nutrients. If I’m tired, it’s easier to deal with it–I rest if I need rest, I eat if I need fuel.
Chocolate is known for giving people a sense of well-being. Interestingly, on my second day without chocolate, my sense of well-being increased. It’s like my brain woke up and thought, Hey, if I’m not getting chocolate anymore, I better start releasing endorphins on my own! I felt great for several days, then I started GAPS intro and had to deal with detox and pathogenic microbe die-off symptoms, so that kind of skews the following weeks. I’m certain, however, that chocolate was holding me back from feeling better.
I still want chocolate once in a while. First the physical addiction to it died off. Now the emotional desire for it seems to be dying off, too. There is still this memory of how enjoyable it is, and I wonder if that desire for pleasure would ever die. Probably not, but the awareness of how much better off I am without it can over-power that.
So, while cacao is now being touted as a superfood, I’ll being living my life without it. At least for now.