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DAN MIHALOPOULOS SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
udy took her first sip of
chocolate milk in an ele-
From then on she says, she
`To me, that was heaven," re-
calls the 45-year-old Springfield,
Ill., woman. Until seeking help
one year ago, Judy, who asked
that her full name not be used,
suffered from what she calls a
Her cravings for chocolate,
Judy believes, felt as intense as
the addiction of a junkie or alco-
holic. She consumed chocolate
daily for decades.
"My mom gave me money to
buy lunch at school, and I just
used all of it to buy candy bars,"
Judy repeatedly attempted —
without success — to will away
"I would try that every day. It
never worked. I always gave in. I
felt like I had no other option. I
People are taught
to use high-fat foods
as a comfort.
had to have chocolate every day.
That's just the way it was."
As she learned the hard way,
it's virtually impossible to just say
no to a craving. Cold-turkey at-
tempts invariably crash with a
That shouldn't be surprising
considering recent studies, which
found that chemical imbalances
in the brain fuel the desire for spe-
cific foods. Brain chemistry seems
to reinforce the desire for choco-
late, craved by an estimated 50
percent of all women.
The legendary Casanova ap-
parently knew what he was do-
ing when he drank chocolate in
hopes of improving his love life.
A compound contained in choco-
late creates feelings not unlike
the emotions experienced by Cu-
The connection between brain
chemicals and the desire for car-
bohydrate-packed foods — in-
cluding doughnuts, cookies and
cakes — is well-known to re-
Pastries increase the levels of
seratonin, a brain chemical that
has a calming effect. Cravers be-
come conditioned to seek out car-
bohydrate-loaded snacks when
their seratonin levels are down
Dan Mihalopoulos is a writer for
Copley News Service.
and they feel anxious or irritat-
Other brain chemicals are
linked to cravings for fatty sweets.
Taking in fat sets off the release
of endorphins, chemicals that pro-
vide powerful feelings of pleasure.
Consider this: The chemicals
regulating cravings are produced
in the hypothalamus — the part
of the brain that also controls the
sex drive. Cultural factors also
condition us to desire sweet,
"If you look at all the celebra-
tions in life, we celebrate with
food, especially desserts," says
Neala Ausmus, a dietitian at St.
John's Hospital in Springfield, Ill.
Most foods we consume at life's
big events are rich in butter and
sugar — rare luxuries long ago,
she says. Then they were re-
served for celebrations, but
though abundant now, "We still
have the mentality that that is
what you do on special occasions,"
Ms. Ausmus says.
"Cravings are a combination of
learned behavior and chemical
stimuli. The chemicals may be a
trigger, but the majority have to
be learned behavior."
People are taught to use high-
fat foods as a comfort, says di-
etitian Cindy Yergler of the
Springfield Diabetes and En-
"Everybody has cravings, even
thin people," she says. "You have
to learn to deal with it. The world
is filled with food. It's booby-
trapped with high-fat, high-calo-
Cravers often alternate be-
tween salty and sweet snacks
during a single evening of indul-
gence, Yergler says.
So how can you rein in in-
stincts that are as basic as your
sex drive? How can you overcome
the social pressure of living in a
culture that revels in rich, fat
First, forget about trying to im-
pose unconditional bans on eat-
ing the foods you crave. Such
efforts are doomed to failure, di-
etitians say. The natural ten-
dency to want what you can't
have always triumphs.
Weight watchers on high-pro-
tein diets, for instance, only make
their carbohydrate cravings
worse. They risk falling into a
dangerous cycle of starving and
binging known as "yo-yo dieting."
"We want to sin a little," Ms.
Ausmus says. "Saying we
shouldn't have something only
makes the food scream at us to
have it. It's a powerful urge. It's
CRAVINGS page 68
at the Trowbridge
enjoy the sounds of
Phil Gram & Orchestra
Tuesday, July 2nd
All concerts will begin at 2:00 pm
24111 Civic Center Drive Southfield, MI 48034
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