First Person: Chocoholics Anonymous

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday August 27, 2009 - 12:56:00 PM

Hopelessly addicted to chocolate since early childhood, I take comfort in the knowledge that I’m not alone in this addiction. Au contraire! There are millions and millions of people out there afflicted with the same—shall we say, neurotic—obsession. Recognizing this as a serious mental health problem, I’ve come up with what I consider to be a brilliant proposal: that there be a Chocoholics Anonymous organization, similar to the effective and time honored Alcoholics Anonymous program. 

Never one to tackle vast projects with half-vast ideas, I’ve done considerable research on the subject. With the help of the Berkeley Public Library reference department, I’ve delved into medical and professional journals, such as the Mayo Clinic and Health & Wellness Resource Center bulletins. While I can’t now claim to be an expert on the historical and psychological aspects of chocolate, I’ve nevertheless come up with several interesting facts. For example, I learned that chocolate comes from the Theobrama cocoa tree and has been revered by Aztecs for hundreds of years. Among its compounds are phenytlethy-lamine and flavonoids called oligomeric procyanidins. I’ll bet you didn’t know that! 

For a more personal perspective of the subject, my own love of chocolate began when I was about 6 years old. Given a one-dollar weekly allowance, did I squander that princely sum on toys or games? No, siree. I would head for the corner grocery store and buy 20 Milky Way candy bars, then costing only five cents a bar. I generally finished those off in a couple of days. Later on, now a wage earner, I advanced to a more selective candy. I like to think that for years I practically supported the former See’s Candy Store on Shattuck Avenue. How I loved those dear, matronly ladies in their crisp white uniforms, who patiently waited while I painstakingly chose a pound of their delectable chocolates. No pre-wrapped packages for this kid! 

Next, candy box under my arm, I’d head for a nearby movie theater. What sheer joy it was to sit in a dark movie house, munching on creamy chocolates. Oh, but it  

wasn’t just candy alone that made life so blissful back in those days. What about the hot fudge sundaes at Edy’s Ice Cream Parlor, or the chocolate cream pie at Walker’s Pie Shop on Solano Avenue? 

From a careful reading of the Mayo Clinic and the Health and Wellness Resource Center bulletins, I now understand that this unnatural gorging on any and everything chocolate is emotional eating and that I, like others, turn to food for comfort. I further learned that fluctuating hormones in women may trigger chocolate cravings. (I can’t say how this works for men.) In summing up the above, Mayo asks, “Is chocolate your passion or your poison?” I’d have to say it’s the latter. 

That’s why I believe a Chocoholics Anonymous organization would offer much needed encouragement and support to all of those addicts (like myself) who turn to chocolate for comfort when facing a difficult problem. Bear in mind there are steps to control those cravings: Learn to recognize true hunger; Know your triggers; Look elsewhere for comfort; Don’t keep unhealthy food around; Snack healthy; Eat a balanced diet; Exercise Regularly and Get Adequate Rest. These steps were suggested by the Mayo Clinic, so should be viewed as valid hints. 

Having said probably far too much about chocolate addiction and confessing the shame I feel for years of self-indulgence, I’m pleased to state that I’ve now found a way to rationalize and control my consumption of chocolate. In a last ditch attempt to control my weight I’ve embarked on a regime of Slim Fast Diet drinks. My favorite flavor is “Rich chocolate royale.”