Chocoholics can kick their habit and they don't have to give up chocolate in the process.
Moderation, not abstinence, is the key to correcting bad food habits and dieters who know they can have chocolate are less likely to binge on it.
"If you know indulging yourself occasionally is OK, even sensible, then you don't have to gorge," said Glorida Arenson, a diet counselor in Santa Barbara.
Arenson, author of "Binge Eating: How to Stop it Forever," said that food craving was not a disease like alcoholism and that "moderate limitation works, while extreme cycles of deprivation and gorging only make the problem worse."
Chocoholics may crave chocolate for reasons that are chemical, hormonal and emotional.
On the chemical side, chocolate contains caffeine, a stimulant and mood lifter. On the hormonal side, many studies show that women suffering premenstrual syndrome have low blood levels of magnesium, a mineral in which chocolate is high.
Psychologically, chocolate's blend of sweetness, bitterness and saturated fat has long been associated with reward. During World War II, the staples for U.S. troops were ammunition, clothing and chocolate to boost morale.
Here are some useful techniques in toning down the chocolate habit:
--Add magnesium to your diet. Some nutritionists believe anyone who constantly craves chocolate has a magnesium deficiency. A calcium-magnesium tablet taken three times a day may help cravings without adding calories. Foods high in magnesium are green vegetables, soybeans and whole grains.
--Avoid blood-sugar lows, which can cause cravings. Don't allow more than four hours to elapse without having a little protein (eggs, fish, poultry, meat) and complex carbohydrate (fruit, whole grains). These foods help keep insulin production level, as does regular aerobic exercise.
--Stop denying unpleasant feelings, which can lead to a compulsive need to eat.