Chocolate cravings are savage beasts. Generally emerging between the hours of 2 and 4pm every day, they attack suddenly and without warning, causing sudden extreme sleepiness, lethargy and the kind of overwhelming cravings that make even a block of Vegemite chocolate an actual viable option.
They will not be ignored and refuse to let you get anything productive done until they get what they want (or you fall asleep, whichever comes first). They assure you that you’ll be far more productive if you just have a little bit (and you’ll only eat half that chocolate bar anyway right?) until you eventually give in and raid the office kitchen/vending machine/your colleagues lolly jar.
But why do they keep picking on you? And more importantly, how can you get rid of them?
There are several reasons for the afternoon emergence of chocolate cravings (or less specific sugar cravings). One reason may be that you’re not sleeping enough – fatigue and stress can increase cravings for sweet foods as our body is telling us we need more energy (translation: sugar). Another reason could be that by repeatedly having something sweet after meals, you’ve accidentally trained your body to expect it. Or maybe its just because chocolate tastes so damn good (and we get a nice little buzz after eating it which is quite addictive). But the most likely culprit is pretty simple – you’re not giving your body what it needs in the first half of the day
This is particularly the case for people who don’t eat breakfast or those who are overly restrictive in their diets. Our bodies are hard wired for survival, and starvation, believe it or not, is a big threat as far as your body is concerned. When we’re hungry our blood sugar levels drop, and low blood sugar levels are perceived as dangerous territory. Your body’s clever way of fixing this problem? Trigger a craving for high sugar foods which will produce the most rapid response in getting blood sugar levels back up into a ‘safe’ range and in doing so keep your survival in check.
But get your blood sugar balance right in the first place and you won’t have to ride the rollercoaster your body sets up later in the day to try and correct them (and you’ll will waste less brain power wondering if anyone would notice if you had a nap under your desk).
Here’s how to do it:
- Eat breakfast! Even if its just a handful of nuts, a glass of milk, a banana – something small is far better than nothing at all
- Include some protein in your lunch – eggs, tuna, chicken, lean meat, beans, chickpeas – take your pick
- Include some low GI carbs in your breakfast and lunch such as oats or other wholegrain cereal, wholegrain bread, rice, pasta or quinoa.
- Have a healthy snack in between your meals. Fruit, yoghurt or wholegrain crackers with cheese/peanut butter/hummus are all good options
- Make sure you get enough sleep – sleep deprivation can contribute to cravings and increased snacking so get your 7-8 hours!
- When cravings strike, instead of panicking, try adopting a curious approach and ask yourself where they might have come from: Are you hungry? Are you bored? Are you trying to put off a task you don’t want to do? Are you tired? Being more aware of why the craving is occurring can be the first step in reducing their impact. If you find you’re not genuinely hungry, try getting up and going for a walk, making a cup of tea, going to chat to a colleague or calling someone and see if this sorts is out
- And finally, if after all of this you still want something sweet, there’s no reason you can’t have it. But try to think about what you really want and savour it, eating slowly and stopping when it doesn’t take as good anymore. A couple of dates, some dark chocolate, a yoghurt or a piece of fruit could be enough to do the trick.
For more on this topic, read my post on ‘How to win the 3pm vending machine stand off’