Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
5 Sep

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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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. It’s interesting that the more sugar we eat, the more we need to have the same dopamine response. I guess that makes sense.
    Why is their chocolate more expensive? The higher the price, the better it tastes? $2,600 a pound? I’d be afraid to eat it.

    Crystal wrote on September 5th, 2007
  2. I saw a chocolate scam recently…it was some trendy awful name that a bunch of expensive marketers obviously came up with…like Luno or Nuba or something…and it was going for 2 grand a box at Neiman Marcus…turns out it was regular old processed cocoa product, the pallet stuff, not even real pure cocoa, and not even a real chocolate artisan..but it was in a trendy silver box and high priced, so hey, it must be good! :)

    Sara wrote on September 5th, 2007
  3. “Candy is great, right? Because we know it’s bad.”

    This line is great. I recently read that females find “bad boys” attractive because adrenaline (present in the female when confronted with said bad boy) mixed with some degree of attraction can result in extreme sex appeal. I don’t know if this is really relevant (I have never wanted to have sex with chocolate), but there may something to the notion that candy tastes better if you think it is bad for you. Come to think of it, I am getting all hot and bothered just thinking about candy. Phew!!

    Nancy wrote on September 5th, 2007
  4. If I eat some candy I don’t consider it cheating because I’m not on a diet. It’s just what I ate that day. A diet to me is a temporary plan to lose weight. The way I eat is forever. I normally eat extremely healthy foods. That is my day to day meal plan. Sometimes I eat a cookie or a piece of cake and I don’t feel bad because 90% of the time I eat really well.

    Mel Practice wrote on September 6th, 2007
  5. “Go for the best”: that’s exactly what I do. No low-cost, low-taste chocolate/candy ever enter my apartment nowadays. If I am to eat such a food, I want it to be darn tasty, not some crappy 50 cents stuff that will only leave some pasty, sugary aftertaste in my mouth.

    Kery wrote on September 6th, 2007
  6. Cute Cookie Jar,He He!(Love The Smiley Face)
    I, For One, Do Indeed Eat 70-85% Dark Chocolate
    And Enjoy It. I Don’t Feel Like This Is A Cheat
    Because I Eat A Piece Once A Week.
    It’s My “TR-eat”, NOT My “CH-eat”!

    Donna wrote on September 6th, 2007
  7. Amen, Mel. It’s not cheating – it’s a choice. It’s when we think of it as bad, or cheating, that it takes its psychic toll. But it is important to be thoughtful and aware about how, when, and why we choose to eat less healthful foods.

    Jaime wrote on September 6th, 2007
  8. When things get hectic at my office, I’ve run out from time to time to Godiva and picked up some dark chocolate truffles for my assistants and female co-workers. The reaction/response this creates is overwhelming. Everyone seems to be in upper spirits, like they are in love or had a passionate lovemaking session. All that for under $25 ;-)

    Tatsujin wrote on September 6th, 2007
  9. Tatsujin, can you pass that idea on to my boss? ;) (But I’m sure your male coworkers would appreciate the treat, too!)

    Jaime wrote on September 6th, 2007
  10. Jaime,
    Just give me his/her name ;-)
    Doesn’t seem to work as well for the male co-workers for some reason. They are not as passionate ;-)

    Tatsujin wrote on September 6th, 2007
  11. I had heard that eating chocolate is like falling in love. That is so interesting, I did not know what the name of the chemical was. Very nice read!!

    terry wrote on September 6th, 2007
  12. I can always bribe my husband with chocolate.

    Crystal wrote on September 6th, 2007
  13. Great comments, everyone – thanks. Calling this “cheating” is probably the wrong approach. As we always say, it’s about lifestyle, not dieting. I like occasional dark chocolate myself.

    Mark Sisson wrote on September 6th, 2007
  14. It’s okay to give into cravings. In fact, it’s good to feed those those cravings, AS LONG AS YOU DON’T OVER DO IT! For example, I love chocolate as well. So, I take out (10) M&M Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms and cloase the bag. Since I know I’m only eating (10) of them, I eat them slowly and really enjoy them. My craving is satisfied with minimal calorie intake. And since it’s peanuts, I get some protein to boot. Try it sometime in the afternoon. Mmmmmmmmm Good!

    Alan wrote on September 12th, 2007
  15. Alan, you’re right on portion control, but I’d recommend eating real nuts (rather than peanut candies or peanuts) and a little dark chocolate. Much healthier with good fats and antioxidants.

    Mark Sisson wrote on September 12th, 2007
  16. Like a lot of women I love my chocolate, but as I’ve grown older I now eschew things like Mars and Snickers in favour of posh chocs. My favourites are from Hotel Chocolat (www.hotelchocolat.co.uk) which are just the best chocolates I’ve ever tasted. These are gourmet chocs – not something to wolf down mindlessly whilst watching reality TV shows.
    I don’t indulge often, and can’t afford to at those prices, but as a treat they are hard to beat.

    Cal Jones wrote on January 29th, 2008
  17. Also, people should know that it’s better to indulge in sweets soon after an intense workout. That way some of those carbs may be more likely to end up as muscle glycogen. :)

    virgomatic wrote on January 29th, 2008
  18. It’s kind of funny. I used to be a chocolate fiend, but since getting onto PB I never, ever feel like eating it, let alone crave it.

    Samantha wrote on June 12th, 2009
  19. “milk and other chemicals” …. WTF?!!
    Since when milk is a chemical?

    nadz wrote on March 25th, 2010
  20. Milk is actually an extremely complex mixture (stew, if it’s pasteurized) of chemicals. You and everything around you is made up of chemicals, and Chemistry is about the building blocks of the universe. If it’s not a chemical, then it’s subatomic or imaginary, and we probably won’t be discussing it too often on Mark’s Daily Apple.

    VP wrote on April 3rd, 2010
  21. Phenylethylamine does not trigger anything in the human body unless a MAOI is taken at the same time. Phenylethylamine is inactive unless taken alongside a MAOI.

    This totally debunks the whole chocolate and love theory. This is a well known fact.

    Otherwise, a good artive.

    Martin wrote on June 28th, 2010
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  23. That’s a good quote: “You’d have to be a millionaire to get fat off of Godiva chocolates”

    Jeff wrote on November 12th, 2010
  24. When I have candy cravings, everlasting gobstoppers are absolutely perfect. They are cheap, last a long time, not too sweet, and only 14g sugar per serving and the serving size is 9 pieces. Just one is usually enough to curb those cravings for me.

    Of course dark chocolate is always the better choice, but hey, sometimes you just need something a little more awful to stuff down your gullet =D

    Zach wrote on June 28th, 2011
  25. If you are looking for the ultimate cheating strategy you need to check out my website.

    With my “Eat a Cheeseburger to Burn Fat” program, once a week there are absolutely no restrictions, and this acts as a hormonal reset and boosts metabolism. On top of that I utilize a specific type of exercise that naturally releases a maximal amount of growth hormone before the overfeed so that fat cells are inhibited to grow, and muscles grow, repair, and get strong.

    Matthew Caton wrote on March 15th, 2012
  26. Not all chocolate is created equal not the % is cacao but also the amount of Flavonoid’s still remained in the chocolate . Example: processed milk chocolate has less than >5 mg flavonoids at 100 gram dark chocolate about 50mg FC at 100 gram so you have to eat a lot to have the same flavonoids i eat each day >800 mg FC at 10 gram organic fairtrade hadmade artisan chocolate. like to know more about chocolate check out this blog http://www.xocohealth-goodcho​colateblog.com also listen to Dr Phillip Minton,MD the writer of healthychocolatebook.com at http://www.thepowerofchocolat​e.org learn what’s good and bad chocolate.

    Peter Langelaar wrote on March 31st, 2012
  27. I have to disagree with the statement, “Hunger is physiological, cravings are psychological.” I used to fight severe sugar cravings before switching to a Primal lifestyle. Within 3 days of making the change, I was liberated from my lifelong constant mental battle for willpower against the candy jar!

    Marissa Weeks wrote on July 16th, 2012
  28. Godiva is quite bad. once you know what to look for getting fat on quality chocolate is cheaper than you think. just eat in moderation and yes, don’t beat yourself up!

    dill wrote on August 21st, 2012
  29. Rather than chocolate, I like to mash up a really ripe banana, add some unsweetened almond milk, a handful of small coconut flakes or ground almonds, and a teaspoon or two of pure, unsweetened cocoa powder. Bam! Dairy-free, sugar-free chocolate mouse. :)

    Blippety wrote on March 9th, 2014
  30. You mentioned milk as a chemical? I am quite confused now! And yes, I particularly agree with this statement – Hunger is physiological, cravings are psychological. Candies won’t do anything to reduce hunger, but hey, chocolates help immensely!

    LuxuryChocolates wrote on May 27th, 2014

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