Top | Views from the Carrot Condo
(post, Trista Cornelius)
My sour month is not going much better. It’s not as hard as it was two weeks ago, but I have this ache, like something’s missing. I miss sweets…no, I miss chocolate, like you might miss a really good friend, someone you talk with regularly who is now camping in some remote back country for a month and incommunicado. Last week, after one particularly stressful day in March, I came home and made a chocolate smoothie. It’s fruit-sweetened, so I wasn’t cheating, and it makes a rich, thick, frothy mug of chocolate. After one sip, I kid you not, I felt soothed and more at ease. Two more sips, I was smiling, relaxing on the sofa, and sure once again that I could face another day. Because of this experience, I decided to re-read Dr. Neal Barnard’s book Breaking the Food Seduction. For some people, a love of chocolate is not a problem. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who can have a small square of dark chocolate and be satisfied. However, if you’re like me, you want one more square, three more the next day, half a bar the day after that, and soon you’re eating an entire bar in one afternoon without a second thought. There are many possible reasons for this compulsive eating. Most likely, you simply fall prey to chocolate’s “opiate effect,” which involves not only the sweet, rich, silky experience of eating chocolate but an overpowering combination of caffeine, theobromine (another stimulant), phenylethylamine (an amphetamine that creates an effect similar to marijuana), and anandamide (another marijuana-like drug). To sum it up, Dr. Barnard explains that chocolate is “basically the whole drugstore: traces of mild opiates, caffeine, amphetamine-like components, and the equivalent of a slight whiff of marijuana, all wrapped into a smooth, sweet taste” (42). I haven’t read far enough into the book to remember what Dr. Barnard suggests to do about this opiate effect. It doesn’t sound like it’s a bad thing unless you’re like me and quickly go from a modest square or two of chocolate to compulsively inhaling an entire bar. No matter what he recommends, I doubt I’ll cut chocolate out of my life. For me, it will be one more life lesson through food. Can I learn to eat a modest amount of chocolate occasionally, not a gargantuan amount regularly? Can I find joy in restraint? Can I be satisfied with less? At the moment, that sounds dreadful. I disdain the idea of ritualistically arranging a little square of chocolate on a pretty plate, closing my eyes, and letting it dissolve on my tongue, meditatively mindful of its fleeting taste and texture, wiping my mouth daintily, then getting up and getting on with the day. Even though there are consequences (like pants not snapping closed), I like eating bowls full of chocolate chips. I like chewing and chomping on a large chunk of chocolate with a cup of flowery herbal tea. I like sitting on the sofa and inhaling chocolate chips for twenty minutes as my mind perks up, switches from negative and defeated to positive and invincible. It’s cozy and comforting, and the amount matters. Could I save up those occasional single squares of chocolate and eat them all at once in a bi-monthly banquet of goodness? Somehow, that doesn’t seem as sane, mindful, or healthy as the occasional square (maybe two squares?) enjoyed thoughtfully, but it sounds way more satisfying. Maybe I will simply embrace my compulsive ways with chocolate. Schedule it into my life, a bi-weekly binge. Maybe I’ll keep using the chocolate smoothie as a healthier alternative. Other than showers, I don’t know what April will bring. We’ll see….