I am not a sweet person. OK, well I am, but I don’t gravitate toward sweet snacks usually. People are amazed that I only eat chocolate once in a while. Not just any chocolate either. Maybe I’ve just lucky enough to have a professional palate.
But, there have been times, as I looked at the pile of crumpled silver and red foil on my desk, when I wondered: Is it possible to be addicted to chocolate?
I know I am not alone here.
I find that as I get older, I have a greater appreciation for the richness of pure vanilla. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a box of chocolates, or a bowl of foil-wrapped ones, will turn my head.
This is the week when many of us may be receiving a head-turning box of chocolates. If we’re lucky, the box alone, heart-shaped, red and frilly, will be as much of a treasure as what we may find inside it.
But before we go crazy and turn our box into a wasteland of brown paper liners, perhaps we need to have a serious chat.
Maybe it’s time for a chocolate intervention.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to still have some of those chocolates left when the weekend is over? It is possible, I am told. It just takes a little effort and the will to eat mindfully.
For help, I turned to Susan Albers, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, who specializes in eating issues. She has written numerous books on the topic, including “Eat Mindfully,” “But I Deserve this Chocolate!” and “50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food.”
The doctor and I had a little chat about chocolate and whether someone can actually get addicted to it, the way they would alcohol or drugs. That’s a matter of debate in the science community, but Albers knows the desire is real.
“You don’t have the same kind of withdrawal, but the intensity of the cravings are pretty high. People talk about really wanting that chocolate. It’s like a magnet really calling your name from the other room,” she said.
Those intense cravings are what prompted her to start a monthlong help session on her Facebook page, offering tips to help folks deal with their chocolate cravings during the month of February. (You can visit at www.facebook.com/eatdrinkmindful).
Eating mindfully isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
According to Albers, it’s really as simple as taking the time to slow down and be in the moment when we eat. She doesn’t believe in trying to deny ourselves chocolate or any foods we love, because that’s a recipe for failure.
“Forget the just-say-no approach,” she said. “The more you fight it, the more you want it.”
Instead, try the Five S’s:
Sit down: Don’t just gobble up empty calories on the run. Sit down and enjoy the experience.
Sniff it: Take in the aroma of the chocolate before you bite it.
Section it or snap it: If you have a large bar, snap off a small piece to focus on.
Savor it: Eat it really slowly and pay close attention to how it tastes and how it feels in your mouth.
Smile: Take time to pause, and think about how pleasurable the experience was before racing off to have another bite.
The thing is, if you follow the five steps, chances are there won’t be another bite.
Albers said many of the people she counsels find that after eating one piece of chocolate mindfully, they are satisfied and don’t want another.
When cravings come — and they will — Albers said there are ways to deal with them. Walking is an excellent way to control chocolate cravings.
You can also enjoy a small amount in a healthful way, like Albers’ chocolate salad dressing. It contains just one ounce of chocolate. Here’s the recipe so you can make it for your own Valentine and serve it with a kiss, chocolate or real.
DR. ALBERS’ CHOCOLATE SALAD DRESSING
1 oz. dark chocolate, chopped fine
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. honey, or to taste
Dash of salt and pepper
Melt chocolate in the microwave. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Whisk to combine.
Add to a salad with spinach, apples, blueberries, cashews or almonds and whole wheat croutons.
Makes about 1/3 of a cup.
Lisa Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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