How to Cheat

We’re clearly no fans of sweets around these parts, but we’ve received some emails and seen some forum chatter about how to properly “cheat”. Sweets and health do not go together, but if you’re going to cheat, you’d better know what you’re getting yourself into!

How to Eat Candy: Knowing Your Enemy

Candy is great, right? Because we know it’s bad. We don’t have to worry about sugar levels, we’ve made the decision of reckless abandon when we make the purchase, and eating sweet caramel nougat covered in….more nougat is a way of rebelling against, well, mainly against yourself, but it’s still rebellion, which is always a joy.

This is the day Mark’s Daily Apple aims you in the direction of such joys as candy corn – only this time, we’re going to look at candy corn with our eyes wide open. (Which, interestingly enough, has fewer calories per cup than raisins. Yeah, how do you like that, Mr. Happy Sun on my Raisin Bran with your two scoops of doom?)

So how do you plan a realistic rebellion? Here are our tips on how to eat candy:

1. Candy is not to be mistaken with food. Period. It’s not better than “going hungry”. You are never going to be that starving that you need candy.

Despite what the marketers feed you, Snickers’ motto “Hungry? Why wait? Grab a Snickers,” makes about as much sense as Phillip-Morris saying, “Physical and mental problems? Why wait? Grab a Marlboro.”

While candies are high in calories, they are empty calories. Most candies give you a bit of calcium, but few candies contain any protein or fiber necessary to sate the body’s needs. You’d have to eat 30 Snickers bars to get your daily fiber and protein, and of course, no vitamins are included.

Eating a large volume of candy will leave you feeling full for about 40 minutes while your digestive system breaks down the calories. Then, you go right back to starving mode.

Candies don’t satisfy hunger, but they can satisfy cravings. So, know the difference!

– Hunger is physiological, cravings are psychological
– If you are hungry, your stomach may growl (cravings don’t cause stomach growls)
– Hunger grows, cravings pass
– Hunger increases the likelihood of cravings, but cravings can be brought about from memory, sights (commercials), and most often smells (the brownie scent pumped into the air around Mrs. Fields’ cookie stands at the mall)

If you’re hungry, why wait? Grab a to-go salad.

2. Go For Taste, Not Volume.

The sugar in candy stimulates your taste buds, which send signals to release endorphins and dopamine into your brain, which means happy fun times. Of course you could also exercise or have sex if you’re looking for those mighty endorphin power rangers.

So, the more candy, the more dopamine, right? In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Malthusian law of diminishing returns is applicable to candy. The first taste of a food releases the highest percentage of dopamine to the brain – sometimes as much as 70% of the total dopamine released during a meal. With every bite after, less and less dopamine is released, until that third scoop of ice cream could probably be replaced with celery pulp and you wouldn’t be getting any more of a happy kick.

To make matters worse, frequent large amounts of sugar cause the taste buds to develop a resistance to stimulation. It takes more and more sugar to get the same amount of dopamine. Sort of like crack cocaine! So keep the quantity small, you’re saving the calories but still getting almost as much sweet brain happiness. Remember, sweets are not going anywhere, so you don’t have to eat them every time you crave them.

3. Don’t feel Guilty.

This is important. The punish/reward system is the trademark of the compulsive eater. Eating candy causes feelings of guilt, which leads to extreme dieting /self-loathing/fasting. Fasting leads to intense cravings, this leads to binge eating more candy, which leads back to guilt. You know the cycle, don’t fall prey. We’ve already established that candy isn’t a food. Treat it like a movie, a walk on the beach, a heated chess game, a root canal at the dentist’s. You know, the fun things in life. Candy costs a bit of calories the way movies cost money, beach walks cost time, and heated chess games cost relationships and chess shaped bruise marks. Trips to the dentist, of course, have no cost. We don’t espouse “cheating”, but nobody is perfect – an indulgence now and then is part of a healthy, happy life. If you are going to cheat, do it rarely and do it well.

The flip side of guilt is false security. This comes in the form of sugar free candies. Sugar free candies are a common ground for people who love sweets but don’t want to feel guilty. However, sugar free candies are still candies. They don’t do anything for hunger, and they often still contain high amounts of empty calories. Sugar free candies aren’t healthy (there’s no nutritional value going on), they are simply less unhealthy than sugar-filled candies. And keep in mind again: less dopamine fun with sugar free candies.

4. Chocolate is Better.

Chocolate is the most craved food in the world. And there’s a reason. It is filled with a chemical called phenylethylamine. Phenylethylamine is found to trigger a feeling similar to “falling in love.”

Cocoa also contains potent antioxidants called phenols. This is the same good stuff found in red wine. But before you start snarfing Hershey’s kisses, be warned that the milk and other chemicals in milk chocolate negate many of the powerful antioxidant effects of cocoa. So, stick with the dark stuff.

5. Get the Best

You’d have to be a millionaire to get fat off of Godiva chocolates. One rose petal champagne-and-almond paste dark ganache might cost as much as three bags of Skittles, but you’ll enjoy it more.

Here’s some of the world’s most expensive chocolates.

Further reading:

How to Eat More Chocolate and Drink More Wine Every Day

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