Imagine for a moment that you are craving chocolate. White chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate -- whatever you love. However, you promised yourself that you wouldn't overindulge in chocolate treats anymore. What do you do?
A) Tell yourself to STOP thinking about chocolate!
B) Think about something else
C) Think about chocolate
It's likely that you either picked A or B. What if I told you that C was a good option: think about chocolate. It's hard to believe but it's true. Trying to suppress thoughts about chocolate may be one of the worst things you can do.
In a study published in the journal Appetite, research subjects were divided into three groups (Erskine & Georgiou, 2010). People were instructed to either suppress their thoughts about chocolate, think about anything they wanted or to think specifically about chocolate. Dieters who were instructed to stop thinking about chocolate experienced a "rebound effect." They actually ate more chocolate than those who were instructed to think about chocolate or anything else.
In a nutshell, trying to wipe your mind clean of any thoughts about chocolate is futile. It's the "elephant in the room" effect. If I told you not to think about a white elephant all you would think about is the white elephant. The same thing happens with chocolate. The more you tell yourself not to think about truffles and candy bars the more you will. In fact, you may be unable to think of anything else.
Instead of wrestling with your thoughts and trying to shoo them away, welcome them in. It sounds radical. This is a theme echoed in my new book, But I Deserve this Chocolate: the 50 Most Common Diet Derailing Excuses and How to Outwit Them. In the book, you learn how to stop trying to ward off your thoughts about yummy foods and instead work with them productively.
The technique is based on the mindfulness. When you mind says, "I want chocolate NOW" your first impulse may be to try and talk yourself out of it. "No I don't really want chocolate" when you really do. Instead, get to know this craving. Begin by asking yourself a lot of questions. "Why now?" "What kind of chocolate am I craving? Dark or milk chocolate?" "Am I hungry or stressed out?" Also, think of your thoughts as a suggestion not an order. Consciously and thoughtfully responding to your craving instead of reacting to them can help prevent you from overeating.
Can you eat chocolate while you are losing or managing your weight? Yes! Would life be any fun without chocolate? No! Tune in for the next six weeks. My goal is to teach you the ins and outs of how to eat chocolate mindfully.
Warning: this series of chocolate articles may make your mouth water. It might also challenge the way you think and eat chocolate. You will read about the latest psychological research on chocolate, get the scoop on the healthiest chocolate and where to find the most decedent chocolate desserts! The series will close with the ultimate chocolate lovers dream, a review of the 14th annual chocolate show in NYC.
Chocolate Tip: Want to know where to find a healthier version of chocolate? Try chocolate from www.sweetriot.com. They make all-natural chocolate that they call chocolate "peaces" with 70% cacao.
A quote by Lucy from the cartoon "Peanuts": "All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!"
See Dr. Susan Albers' new book, But I Deserve This Chocolate: the 50 Most Common Diet-Derailing Excuses and How to Outwit Them. She is a psychologist for the Cleveland Clinic and author of five books on mindful eating including 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully. Her books have been noted in O, the Oprah magazine, Shape, Prevention, Health etc. and seen on the Dr. Oz TV show.