I have a horrible confession to make: I eat chocolate. And when I eat chocolate, I feel happy, which is the most horrible thing of all. Because according to logic floating around on the internet, if a food makes you happy, there must be some kind of addictive and villainous ingredient at work.
Well, I’m a balance-and-moderation sort of girl–which I guess sounds crazy and controversial these days. So to me? Chocolate is just… chocolate. And, yeah, it’s fun to eat.
The Chocolate Experiment
My experiment with chocolate was a total accident–I didn’t set out to prove that chocolate makes me feel happy. I really didn’t think about it at all. Doing a “controlled” experiment was the furthest thing from my mind.
I usually eat some chocolate (or something with chocolate in it) here and there, but never in a way I could consider “scientific” enough to remark on the effects.
So my discovery about chocolate could be considered serendipitous, I guess.
If there’s one thing I do consistently, it’s have my morning coffee smoothie. It’s the same basic recipe every single morning of my life: 4-6 ounces of coffee, a cup of whole grass-fed milk, a couple tablespoons of raw honey or real maple syrup, and around 1/3 cup of collagen protein. This is my breakfast pretty much each and every morning of my life (except when I’m out of town and all bets are off!).
So randomly last week, I decided to start adding a tablespoon of organic cocoa powder to my morning smoothie every day. No other changes going on in the morning. Just that innocuous little tablespoon of cocoa.
And what happened? I became superwoman.
Chocolate: Procrastination Killer?
Okay, not really superwoman. But suddenly stuff was getting done. In the mornings.
You see, it’s shameful, but I’m totally guilty of procrastinating my mornings away, lazily getting one or two things done in the time I could have used to cross off most of my to-do list.
Yep, it’s not a healthy cycle and it’s one I’ve been meaning to break for a while. But, well, I was kind of procrastinating about breaking the procrastination habit. (Vicious cycle, isn’t it?)
So, yeah, maybe we’re not talking hard science here, but since I started adding cocoa to my smoothie, I feel a little more upbeat and my mornings are no longer ruled by procrastination. So what gives?
I’m guessing it has to do with compounds in cocoa like theobromine and phenylalanine that are known for giving your energy and moods a boost. But to be totally honest, I’m not into geeking out on my chocolate research just yet. I’m just sort of enjoying the fact that my dishes are clean.
Are you allowed to eat food that makes you feel good?
There’s a prevailing theory running rampant in our society: if it makes you feel good, it must be bad for you.
I’m guessing this stems from the fact that drug addiction, alcoholism and other serious addictive behaviors often “feel good” to the addict, but end up causing real pain and misery to the user and those in their life.
But it’s faulty logic to assume that because some harmful behaviors feel good, that must mean that all behaviors that feel good must be harmful too.
Sometimes a tall glass of farm-fresh raw milk makes me feel good. Or french onion soup made from scratch. Or juicy orange slices. Or scrambled eggs from my backyard chickens.
Seriously, am I supposed to stop eating these foods?
“But chocolate raises endorphins! That means it’s a drug just like heroin!”
Okay, let’s get one thing straight here: chocolate is not heroin.
True, chocolate does raise feel-good chemicals in the brain.
So does sex.
So does exercise.
So does laughing.
So does eating spicy food.
Since we’re throwing our chocolate in the garbage, I guess we should stop doing all these things, too… right?
My friend Winnie couldn’t have said it better in this post:
“Guess what? Playing with kittens stimulates the pleasure centers in your brain, too, but I don’t see anyone recommending a detox for that. Just because you enjoy something does not mean it’s terrible for you, you have to feel guilty about it, and stop doing it altogether (not talking about doing drugs here, folks).”
Chocolate in Perspective
The point is to approach the topic of eating foods like chocolate with a little balance and perspective. In my case, I recognize that I’m adding some cocoa to my daily smoothie–not eating 18 Hershey bars for dinner every night. And I believe there’s an important difference there.
It also helps to know your body, listen to your body, and do what works for you. I’m not saying you need to eat more chocolate or that you can’t be happy without adding cocoa to your smoothies too.
(If you think I said that, please go back and read again. I’m just reporting something interesting that happened to me–not making blanket statements about what everyone should do.)
Don’t Feel Guilty for Eating Chocolate!
One thing I know for sure: if you’re gonna eat chocolate, don’t beat yourself up about it.
One study which found that eating chocolate does, in fact, make you feel a little more awesome, also found that people who give in to their hankering for chocolate often have a common negative experience afterward: guilt. In fact, the guilt basically robbed chocolate eaters from their enjoyment of the chocolate (which, if you’re eating chocolate for enjoyment, kind of defeats the whole purpose, doesn’t it?).
But you don’t have to feel guilty for eating chocolate. Guilt is an ingredient you should definitely avoid.
If you’re going to eat the chocolate, just eat the chocolate. Don’t top it with shame and put it between two slices of self-loathing.
What Do YOU Think About Chocolate?
Do you eat chocolate? Do you enjoy it or feel terrible guilt afterwards? Have you banned chocolate from your life? Do you feel some kinds of chocolate are better than others?
I want to hear your thoughts! Speak up in the comments below this post. I’d love to hear what you have to say.
For more information…
More of My Thoughts on Food:
- Daily Recommended Protein: My Thoughts
- I Stopped Dieting 6 Years Ago and This Happened…
- 7 “Healthy” Habits that Stresses Your Metabolism
- Why I Eat Raw Egg Yolks Every Day
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT NUTRITION AND STRESS?
You can read more about my thoughts on nutrition, stress and metabolism in my eBook The Nourished Metabolism. No gimmicks, just a balanced perspective on how you can improve your metabolic health. Click here to check it out.
Elizabeth is the founder and creative director at The Nourished Life. Her mission is to help people find a more balanced (less stressful!) approach to living a happy, healthy life. Read more about Elizabeth here.