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I am addicted to sweets and chocolate. They are my best friend and my worst enemy. As a result, I have cavities in almost every tooth in my mouth, and I am overweight. Why do I like chocolate that much?

Are Sweets and Chocolate Addictive?

Although we associate addictive behavior with alcohol, drugs, cigarettes or compulsive behavior, sweets and chocolate may evoke similar behavioral reactions in a majority of people. 

Studies show what kind of physical effects certain types of chocolates and sweets can have on the human body [1]:
  •   - Chocolate gives a sense well being
  •   - Chocolate is mood lifter: it stimulates brain waves and lowers the stress levels
  •  - Chocolate raises antioxidant levels, which helps fight against free radicals that cause illnesses.

Why Do We Eat Chocolate and Sweets?

Chocolate contains cocoa and other additions such as fat and sugar, and with its hedonistic appeal and wonderful aroma, we are quickly back, craving more and more.

Sometimes people use chocolate as a form of self-medication for dietary deficiencies — chocolate namely contains magnesium.

As mentioned above, chocolate is a mood lifter. Why is that? Chocolate balances low levels of neurotransmitters, which are involved in the regulation of mood, food intake, and compulsive behaviors. [1] 
 
Chocolate and sweets cravings are often episodic. You just feel it, and you would kill for a bar of chocolate! This behavior is not a coincidence! Chocolate cravings are occasional and fluctuate with hormonal changes, which means that just before or during a period, women are more likely to have chocolate and sweets cravings.
 
Nutritionists are aware that chocolate cravings are real. The composition of chocolate reveals that chocolate contains several biologically active constituents — methylxanthines, biogenic amines, and cannabinoid-like fatty acids. All these active components potentially cause addiction or in other terms, abnormal behaviors and psychological sensations which parallel those of other addictive substances.

Why Shouldn't We Eat Chocolate and Sweets?

One of the biggest problems of western society is obesity. Eating chocolate can cause obesity, of course, if there is no moderation in eating chocolate and sweets. Chocolate contains very high levels of sugar, and extra sugar can result in extra calories and fat, which can lead to being overweight if you don't exercise regularly. Obesity is, as we all know, related to many other health problems, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and many others. [2, 3]

Another issue with chocolate or sweets is dental cavities. It is not the chocolate itself that causes a cavity, but sugar. 

A study by Osaka University in Japan shows that cacao contains antibacterial agents that actually fight tooth decay. High levels of sugar that are also found in chocolate, on the other hand, counteract the benefits of these antibacterial agents. [4]

A popular myth about chocolate is that chocolate causes acne. According to studies eating or not eating chocolate made no difference in the skin condition of the study participants. In fact, most doctors believe that acne is not linked primarily to diet. [5]

Can Fruit Be a Substitute for Chocolate and Sweets?

According to Elizabeth Somer, M.A., fruit cannot satisfy a chocolate craving. We explained that chocolate cravings are related to the balance of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, serotonin and the endorphins. Moreover, chocolate is like falling in love: it also contains a compound called phenylethylamine, or PEA. PEA is generated in relatively high amounts in the brain when we first fall in love. Phenylethylamine is also a chemical found in the body that is similar to amphetamine (amphetamine causes addiction). It helps mediate feelings of giddiness, attraction, euphoria, and excitement. Researchers believe phenylethylamine causes the brain to release mesolimbic dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain, which peaks during an orgasm. [6]    

How to Eat Chocolate and Sweets?

The more you refrain from chocolate and sweets, the greater the chance you will end up eating full-size chocolate. For that reason, plan a small chocolate treat into your daily menu. It is more likely you won't feel deprived and overindulge later.

It is also better to eat chocolate right after a meal, which usually means you will be more likely to choose small portions, which is actually a road to success and or recovery. If you eat it in small portions, it cannot hurt you — you will not gain weight and obesity won't cause you any other health-related problems. 

  • It is important to realize that your chocolate craving is emotional. With one piece of chocolate you must have satisfied your physical need, so do you need to continue? Realize that chocolate cravings are often related to feelings of low self-esteem or depression. Deal with that in another way!
  • If you feel bored and you feel like eating chocolate or sweets, do something! Go for a walk, call a friend, read a book! Maybe in the meantime, your craving will pass.
  • Do not restrict yourself by depriving yourself of chocolate completely. Eat chocolate in small portions. Remember balance and moderation are the answer to all things in life.
  • Try to have balanced nutrition. Balanced nutrition includes fruits and vegetables and may satisfy your craving for chocolate and sweets. However, if you must eat chocolate, eat it after a meal, which increases possibility you'll eat chocolate in smaller amounts.
  • If you think you're a chocoholic, and you decide not to eat chocolate anymore, do not allow chocolate in the house. Ask your family and friends not to buy you chocolate and not to eat it in front of you.
  • The solution to all addictions, including chocolate addiction, may be exercise. This way you will burn calories and improve your physical condition and this way you will also boost your self-esteem. On a mental level, exercise releases endorphins, which counteracts stress, anxiety, and depression.
Good Luck!