Mindfulness could be the cure for chocolate addiction, study claims
The addictive qualities of chocolate are well-known - it’s not just in your head but actually scientifically-proven.
But if you’re trying to wean yourself off the delicious, velvety, warming, sweet stuff, a new study may offer some hope.
According to research by Flinders University School of Psychology in Australia, mindfulness could hold the key to curbing your chocolate cravings.
Yes, the buzzword of the past few years apparently has yet another use.
The study was based on examining what’s known as the “elaborated-intrusion theory of desire.”
What this boils down to is a two-step process which explains why we desire food.
First comes the “initial intrusion” stage, which is where the food captures our attention (often caused by environmental cues like pictures). This is followed by the “elaborated mental imagery” stage, where we focus on and obsess over it (where vivid imagery of the craving becomes persistent).
The researchers sought to find out whether mindfulness could help combat both parts of the process.
They tested two groups of women - one set who were all huge chocolate fans but wanted to cut down on their consumption, and the other who claimed they weren’t too fussed about chocolate (although we’re somewhat suspicious such people exist).
The participants were randomly divided up and asked to try one of two mindfulness techniques:
Cognitive defusion - this method is meant to tackle the first stage of the craving or when the thought of chocolate first pops into your head. The trick is to immediately distance yourself from the craving and “see it as something which doesn’t necessarily have to be followed by action,” the researchers say.
Guided imagery - this targets the second stage of a craving. Once you start imagining the feel, smell and taste of chocolate, you have to replace it with another image such as a serene forest or lonely beach.
Anyone who truly loves chocolate will no doubt think that sounds easier said than done.
The scientists measured the women’s thoughts about chocolate, how intrusive those thoughts were, how vivid the imagery in their minds was, the craving intensity and how much they ultimately ate.
They found that cognitive defusion lowered the intrusiveness of chocolate-related thoughts, vividness of imagery and craving intensity for both groups of women
Interestingly, the guided imagery technique only worked on the chocolate-lovers, who had reduced chocolate-related thoughts, intrusiveness, vividness and craving intensity,
The researchers believe the findings could be useful for anyone trying to combat problematic cravings.
“If we tackle the issue when it first pops up in your mind – particularly if you are not hungry – then it’s much easier than waiting for those cravings to gather force,” lead researcher Sophie Schumacher said.
“Learn to nip off these cravings at the bud – by giving yourself a constructive distraction such as imaging a walk in a forest – can help to lower the intrusiveness of the thoughts and vividness of the imagery.
“We found it was important to target the initial craving thoughts before they become full-blown cravings.”
During the time it took me to write this article, I managed to munch my way through a handful of mini chocolate eggs, a truffle or two and a nibble of an Easter egg. It may be time to get mindful.