Walk Away Your Chocolate Cravings
Dark chocolate has gotten lots of attention in recent years for its antioxidant effects. However, milk chocolate, which is the more widely available form, doesn’t share those good effects, and eating too much of this fatty favorite may contribute to obesity. So for those who are watching the waist, we have good news: resisting the urge might be as simple as a walk around the block. As little as 15 minutes of brisk walking can help take your mind off the sweet stuff, while giving your body a calorie-burning energy boost.
What do you crave?
Food cravings are thought to be a key cause of obesity, and they are often to blame for people falling off the diet wagon. Chocolate—boasting an abundance of addictive substances—is one of the most commonly craved foods.
People report feeling better after eating chocolate—but fortunately exercise can also have this positive effect on mood. In the first study of its kind, UK researchers looked at the influence of exercise on chocolate cravings. The 25 people who took part in the study that was published in the journal, Appetite, were daily chocolate eaters who agreed to abstain from eating chocolate for three days before the study began.
The study began by having the people walk briskly for 15 minutes. After a brief rest, they took a mental challenge test (meant to be a stressor that could increase the desire for chocolate); this was followed by a chocolate cue, where they chose a chocolate bar and unwrapped, but did not eat it. As a control condition, the people sat quietly for 15 minutes, followed by the mental challenge test and chocolate cue.
Exercise satisfies the urge
Chocolate cravings were significantly lower than the baseline levels for at least ten minutes after taking a walk. “Given that feeling lethargic, fatigued, and having the need for an energy boost has been associated with the consumption of high-energy foods, the present study highlights the importance of short bouts of physical activity as a substitute for other mood regulating behaviors such as sugar snacking,” the study’s authors commented.
• When you feel an urge to snack coming on, opt for a quick walk instead. Studies have shown that even small amounts of exercise, when combined with slightly lower caloric intakes, can add up to big health gains. Be sure to keep tasty but healthy snacks on hand in case walking is not possible or you need a blood sugar boost.
• Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. As you build muscle mass, you’ll burn more calories even when you’re not exercising. Mix it up: walk more places, try a new sport, look for new ways to incorporate movement into your lifestyle, so that you receive some cross-training benefits even on days you don’t make it to the gym or your bicycle seat.
• Give green tea a try. Loaded with antioxidants and just a small amount of caffeine, green tea is a natural pick-me-up that can also help raise metabolism.
December 24, 2008
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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