That headline about chocolate ...
Chocolate is in the headlines again, not for the first time and probably not for the last. Yesterday, the Telegraph informed us that “Two bars of chocolate a day ‘lowers risk of stroke and heart disease’”; the Independent said: “Two chocolate bars a day ‘reduce risk of heart attack and stroke’”; and the Mirror proclaimed that “Two chocolate bars a day can SLASH the risk of heart disease and stroke”.
Whilst it is tempting to use such headlines to justify chocolate craving and eating habits, it's always a good idea to do your own research and not to take such sensationalism at face value. A look at the original study shows that it is less conclusive than the papers would suggest. A study did indeed take place, which investigated the effect of chocolate consumption on cardiovascular health. The best conclusion, as summarised by Science Media Centre, is that it provided "limited, weak evidence to support a reduction in cardiovascular disease for people who eat more chocolate." They go on to explain: "It is hard to know if the lower risk comes from chocolate or those other factors. The authors have tried to account for these as far as possible, but the nature of the study means that it is not possible to do that perfectly. Therefore, it is possible that the protective effect might be because of something else – not chocolate."
It is concerning that headlines such as these may tempt a person to justify their habit instead of seeking assistance. Whilst a little chocolate now and again will do little harm, eating two bars a day will not help to tackle the nation's obesity and diabetes problems. There are 240 calories in a 45g bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk (used as an example) and 13.4g of fat. That's over one tenth of the recommended daily calories and over twenty percent of our recommended fat intake.
Sensational and irresponsible journalism twists the facts out of proportion. Our relationship with food is complex, and hypnotherapists see many clients who turn to food for reasons other than nourishment. Chocolate is a popular comfort food, used to combat stress, as a reward or as a replacement for something else that the client needs. Such behaviours are often deeply embedded in the subconscious, and can be difficult to adjust without professional help. Clients often speak of 'chocolate cravings' and are concerned that these will be hard to deal with should they give up their treat.
Our relationship with food often starts at an early age - parents might use treats as a reward ("eat your dinner or there will be no pudding"), or guilt ("think of all those starving children"). Eating also stimulates the pleasure centres of our brain and when you combine this with feelings such as stress, low self-esteem, sadness and boredom, it is easy to see how emotional eating can lead to weight gain.
I would urge anybody who has an unwanted habit, or is concerned about their chocolate consumption, cravings or any other eating behaviour, to contact a reputable hypnotherapist to see if they can help. The right therapist can enable the client to gain a deeper understanding of their habit, and hypnotherapy can work to help change subconscious behaviours and habits without leaving a client with cravings.
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About John Taylor
John is a hypnotherapist with clinics in Northallerton and Skipton, North Yorkshire, specialising in stress and anxiety, confidence building, sleep issues, weight-loss and smoking cessation.