Valentine Chocolate
Though both release the bonding hormone Oxytocin, chocolate is not a substitute for love.

“My feelings are delicious,” is the clever way one of my clients explains her pattern of emotional eating. It is very natural to turn to food for comfort. It starts when we’re new babies, and are offered a bottle or breast when we cry.

But as we grow, we come to learn that there are other things besides eating that make us feel good. Playing with friends, sports, crafts and other hobbies will ideally take the place of feedings to amuse and stimulate us.

Sometimes, however, we all regress. It gets to be a problem when we go for the “quick fix” of sweets and treats to address a deeper issue. Some people crave sweets when they’re sad or lonely, which not only fails to solve the problem, it adds a new one, harming their health!

While giving a “Sugar Blues” talk to a women’s group last week, I wondered why we call our romantic partners “honey,” “sweetie,” and “sugar,” while the French terms of endearments I learned in school were “my little rabbit” and “my little cabbage” (they sound better in French). Could that be the real reason French women don’t get fat?

Someone who feels depleted in “sweetness” from our loved ones or other sources is someone more likely to turn to sweets to feel good, if only for a short while. If you are an emotional eater, here are a few steps to take before turning to the pint of ice cream in the freezer:

1. Breathe deeply for a moment. Sometimes we don’t really need food, we just need a break.

2. Many cravings for sweets are a result of dehydration. Have a glass of water and see if that helps.

3. Make a “nourishment menu” of things that fill your heart and spirit. It could be playing with a pet, taking a walk, listening to music, or calling a friend.

Chocolate and love do have something in common: both of them stimulate the release of oxytocin, the hormone that promotes bonding and inner peace. Understanding that helps me realize that while chocolate and love are both wonderful things, one is not a good substitute for the other.

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Lisa Browdy

We all know what to do, and many of us resolve to do it every year: eat better, exercise more, lose weight and reduce stress. We may have many demands on our time and energy, and not a lot of cash to spare...