Dear Rena: Help, my body’s screaming for chocolate

What do you do when your body is craving the things you know are not good for you? I wish my body would stop screaming for chocolate and cake! Please post some advice!

Thanks for sending in this great question! I get a variation of this a lot, so I would bet it is a question that many people have.

I want to start off by asking you some counter questions:

1) What amount of chocolate and cake is not good for you?

2) How do you know that SOME chocolate and cake is not good for you?

3) Why are chocolate and cake not good for you?

4) Where did you get the answers to the above questions from?

See the thing I’m getting at here is that often times we are presented with a very black and white approach to our food and eating. Notions like, “Sugar is the cause of every single health problem that we have in today’s day and age.”

The problem with this sort of thinking is that all or nothing thinking often ends up leaning a lot more to the “nothing” side of things. If our options are, swing to one extreme or the other of a rigid system, we often end up paralyzed or confused and generally add unnecessary stress into our lives.

Given the options that all “junk food” is bad (we do call it “junk” after all), we understand that it would be best to swing to the opposite extreme and never touch it.

Only, it’s exactly when we feel restriction around food that we tend to go overboard in the other direction and lose control around food.

Oddly enough, it’s when we give ourselves permission to eat something without limitations — as crazy as it sounds — what ends up happening is that we find a happy medium. That’s because we’ve restored our ability to choose what we want to eat and not forced into one camp or the other.

One thing we need to notice is the stress that it’s causing you. As you said — you wish your body would stop SCREAMING for chocolate and cake. It sounds to me from what you’re saying that your body is feeling a lot of stress and inner turmoil from the constant back-and-forth of whether or not this is something you should be eating or not. If your body felt like you were taking its needs seriously, it wouldn’t have to scream.

Let’s take into account and consider what affect this stress is having on our health. Did you ever consider that stress is also really not good for us? And so when we counter that with a moderate amount of dessert here and there, we are actually doing something GOOD for our bodies by giving them food which is pleasurable and removing unnecessary stress from our lives.

Let’s go back to the questions I asked you:

How do you know that some chocolate and cake is not good for you? Certainly if you have a medical condition such as celiac then absolutely, you cannot have chocolate cake made with gluten flour. And in that situation you need to find an alternative to the foods you are craving. But most people — even with medical conditions — are able to have some amount of the foods that they want. A bit of chocolate. Some cake. It’s only when they become a staple of your diet that they could lead to medical complications down the road.

As Chazal say in Pirkei Avos, “Yatza scharo b’hefseido”. It would be amazing if we could never eat treats. But at what cost? This is the price we pay: social exclusion; stress; lack of satisfaction and variety; a constant feeling of restriction hanging over us; missing out on Hashem’s ta’anugim (pleasures).

By saying NO to treats, we end up saying yes to the above and open the door to a total loss of control around “junk food”. By understanding that one cookie never killed a relatively healthy person, and that even several cookies eaten in a balanced, thoughtful way never killed a relatively healthy person, we can actually have our cake and eat it too, and not overeat it. And the next time that your body is screaming at you, you can treat it like you would a small child, and say, “You don’t need to scream. I’m right here and I am listening to every word.”

Do you have a question you’d like me to answer? Post it in the comments below and I’ll answer it on the blog.

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Iris Marxreply
August 6, 2016 at 11:47 pm

I understand what you are saying here, but what about when the starting point is not a relatively healthy person? What if the starting point is someone who is obese, out of shape and suffering from IBD, or other such health concerns whereby reducing or eliminating certain foods would almost certainly benefit their health? What about when the level of chocolate and cake eating is really “out of control” and not a controlled portion once in a while? A cookie or chocolate square isn’t going to harm a relatively healthy person. What about a person who has health issues and who would benefit greatly from eating fewer of these foods or even eliminating some from their diet but still finds themselves binging on junk food, then what? Is there no place for eliminating foods, even if it only for a short time to “reset” the person’s perspective on proper portions and balanced eating? Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment. I am eager to hear your response.

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