We all try our best. We try to get on a routine, make the right food choices, move our bodies, sleep, de-stress….we try to hold up all of the pillars that make us fit, healthy and happy. But sometimes, like after making a drastic dietary change, or not getting enough sleep, or not eating consistently, we begin to feel that little “c” word. You know what I’m talking about…..a craving.
And almost inherent in the word “crave” is a little side note: self denial. You want something, but you can’t have it. How does this make us feel?
But, have no fear. I am here to let you know there are ways to get around or cravings, deal with them, or go straight through them. And, we get to use one of the food items many of us may crave: Chocolate.
“What?” you say, “chocolate? C’mon now, stop torturing me!”
Let me tell you a little something about chocolate. Chocolate is derived from the cacao bean, the scientific name is “Theobroma cacao” whose literal translation is “food of the gods”. Ancient people thought that this plant could impart immortality. Interesting, yes? From the cacao bean we get raw cocoa powder, and this is what we will be discussing.
Raw, organic cocoa powder, free of milk, sugar, pesticides and processed ingredients, is really no less than a superfood. It has many medicinal uses, including use in hypertension, diabetes type II and increasing blood flow to the brain, but the real reason I brought it up is for what it can do for our cravings.
Raw, organic cocoa powder, and it’s daughter, chocolate, have a looong association with the feelings of love, happiness and ease. This is because cocoa powder is just teeming with a wide variety of phytonutrients, chemicals and neurotransmitter precursors that make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. To name a few: phenyethlamine (PEA), serotonin, tyramine and anandamide. One of the most well-known is phenyethlamine (PEA) which helps the body release its own opium-like compounds (called the endorphins) and also boosts levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. PEA and dopamine flood the brain when we fall in love or have an orgasm. Endorphins and dopamine gives one a sense of well-being and can act as an anti-depressant. Other “feel-good” chemicals in cocoa are serotonin and tyramine.
Most people are deficient in the neurotransmitter serotonin (which helps make us calm) and this is why many Americans are prescribed anti-depressants which boost serotonin levels. Tyramine helps reduce anxiety and balance mood, but can also trigger migraines in sensitive people. Another constituent found in cocoa that alters the mental state in a pleasurable way is anandamide, whose name is derived from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means “bliss”. This chemical binds to the same receptor sites in the brain as THC, the active constituent in marijuana. It is no wonder that cocoa has the reputation of being an antidepressant, aphrodisiac and a calming stimulant.
The bottom line is that cocoa can help us feel satiated and reduce our cravings. Without guilt or remorse. In fact, cocoa also has tons of magnesium and is a good source of fiber, too. Here is how to use it:
The cocoa drink: Add 1-2 heaping TB raw organic cocoa powder to 8-12 oz of freshly boiled water, stir and enjoy! If you notice that you would like to sweeten the drink, add xylitol, erythritol, agave nectar or stevia to the drink. You may also add rice or nut milks. For variety, you may want to try a dash of cinnamon, cayenne pepper or cardamom to your drink.
To turn this drink into “cocoa powder” on steroids, look into getting our Craving Cocoa product. It is Pure organic cocoa powder spiked with BCAAs and designer fibers. This combo is devastatingly effective at eliminating cravings. Check out the science and the product HERE.
You can also put 1-2 heaping TB raw organic cocoa powder into your smoothie. This is delicious and VERY satisfying!
Why do I keep talking about raw, organic cocoa powder? Because this is a clean source. Raw means it has been unprocessed. Processing cocoa can add caffeine to the cocoa and amplify the negative effects of tyramine (ie – may trigger a migraine). Organic is important because non-organic cocoa can be contaminated with lead.
What about chocolate bars? Great news! Go out and find an organic chocolate bar that is at least 65-70% cocoa. If you are really trying to be tight, there are sugar-free options available. You may have about 3 ounces per day. What does three ounces look like? Put together your first, second and third fingers. The amount of space they take up is about three ounces. Now, if you have enormous hands, put just your first and second figers together.
You can enjoy chocolate an cocoa every day. Every day. I recommend you drink 1-2 cups of hot cocoa (and you can ice it in the summer and it is just awesome) per day, especially after dinner, when cravings can definitely rear their ugly little heads. And you can always have your 3 ounces of dark chocolate.
Cocoa is great to use when you are in a pinch, when you are having a craving RIGHT NOW and may just go crazy. If you don’t want cocoa, or don’t have it, here are some other tips that you can use.
1. Change your behavior: get up, go for a walk, do some laundry. Grab the dog and go for a brisk walk. Go hit the gym for a workout – this will definitely diffuse your craving!
2. Put a mint taste in the mouth: go brush your teeth or pop in a piece of gum. Behavioral scientists have figured out that the mint taste can suppress hunger. Keep in mind that a craving is a different thing than a hunger pain, but we see good results with cravings as well.
3. Have a fiber drink: fiber will definitely satiate you and make you feel full. If you eat a high-fiber diet already, you can add 1TB fiber powder to a glass of water. If you don’t eat a lot of fiber, I’d start with 1-2tsps and work your way up to avoid intestinal discomfort.
4. Don’t skip meals. This is a big one. Eating consistently puts you in the optimal hormonal environment for blood sugar control, emotional well being and satiety.
5. Try to get protein and fiber at every meal. You have heard this one before.
6. Have one cheat meal per week. Once a week, go out and eat what you want, at one meal. Appetizers, wine, dessert, all of it. Go out for a big breakfast. Just limit it to ONE meal per WEEK. This will actually help your body reset the hunger hormones ghrelin, CCK and leptin and cheat meals have been shown in the reasearch to aid fat loss. That, again, is one cheat meal per week. It is easier to stay on task if you know you have a cheat meal coming up at the end of the week.
…..And, for those of you who like to delve into the mental-emotional aspect of things:
Like any intense emotion, a craving will rise up, be present and leave. Just because it is there and you feel it does not mean you have to act on it and jump into that 2 gallon carton of ice cream or bag of potato chips. Simply observe it. You may even want to time it. My longest craving was 20 minutes. Just 20 minutes, and it was gone.
Something else I do with myself is ask myself, “what does she really want?” OK, cookie dough, but what does that mean? What does that give me? Fulfillment? Safety? Indulgence? Can’t I give myself those things, without eating the cookie dough? Do I have to “use” the cookie dough like a drug? (Very interesting side note: both gliadin, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats; and casein, a protein found in cows milk, are broken down in the digestive tract into compounds that have opiod-like action….meaning they bind to our opiod receptors and we can actually become addicted to them).
When I really look inside, I want to be lean and fit. I love to see the definition in my upper abs. Cookie dough and mac and cheese will not maintain that look for me. Lean and tight is my goal, and I try my best not to let cravings control me. I am in control. And so are you!
Click HERE for The First Performance Based Cocoa Product Specifically Designed To Help Combat Diet Induced Hunger & Cravings