Wednesday Bubble: when it comes to chocolate, walk the walk

Posted by on Jan 11, 2012 in career, diet, exercise | 4 comments

You know all that dark chocolate you started eating after Monday’s post about chocolate and heart disease? Well, ‘Wednesday’s child is full of woe,’ mainly because overconsumption of high energy food sources, like chocolate, can lead to slow weight gain over time.

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, right?

Not so fast! I ran across an interesting piece the other day when researching chocolate. And researchers say that while chocolate is one of the most commonly craved foods because it can temporarily enhance moods and may even be considered addictive, exercise may be a way to counter the chocolate craving, especially in the workplace where snacking is used as a tool to counter boredom, fatigue and stress.

In this small study, researchers asked regular chocolate eaters (i.e. those who confessed to eating at least two chocolate bars a day) to abstain from eating chocolate for two days and then randomly participate in the following:

  • 15 minutes of exercise (a brisk walk on a treadmill to the point but not exceeding breathlessness) and a low demanding computer task
  • 15 minutes of exercise (as above) and a high demanding computer task
  • Rest and a low demanding computer task
  • Rest and a high demanding computer task

Now, here’s the rub. During the computer tasks, participants were seated next to a bowl of chocolates and informed that they could dig in as they wished (and, the bowl was weighed before and after so that the researchers could accurately determine how much chocolate was eaten). And, despite temptation, the participants who exercised ate half as much chocolate as those who didn’t. ¬†Yet, stress didn’t seem to counter the effect of exercise or the temptation to snack since both high and low demanding tasks resulted in pretty much the same level of chocolate consumption.

Although this is a very small study and only mimicked real life conditions, evidently, others have likewise shown that a brisk walk can temper chocolate cravings and that walking for as little as five minutes can counter an urge to snack. This is especially interesting when it comes to addictive foods like chocolate, since the compulsion component of addiction is such a strong driver of unhealthy behaviors.

The next time you’re at work and feel compelled to reach for the chocolate? Take a break and walk around the block. Save the chocolate for relaxing evenings at home. After all, home is where the heart is.

 

4 Comments

  1. 1-11-2012

    Interesting. Funny I don’t “crave” chocolate. It is one of my emotional food though – foods I use to numb other feelings etc. – you know the drill. And being with my best friend makes me want chocolate because we’d always get together and have a “treat” to reward ourselves for the week, coping, what ever.

    • 1-11-2012

      Kathryn, chocolate has never been my thing. But I do think that it affects mood, which is why so many people, especially women, do crave it. And treats are always needed, regardless. !

  2. 1-12-2012

    I seem to crave chocolate all the time–especially at night. It does seem to soothe when times get tough! Thanks for sharing your info–I enjoyed reading it!

    • 1-12-2012

      Hi Macia – thanks for stopping by! And glad that you got something valuable out of the post; it’s always a pleasure to hear that!

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