Feeling guilty? Celebrating chocolate is better for your waistline, says world’s coolest study

You go for it, girl! Feeling guilty about a chocolate binge does you more harm than good.

You go for it, girl! Feeling guilty about a chocolate binge does you more harm than good. Photo: Getty

When was the last time you climbed out of your easy chair and gave science a round of applause? Please do so now.

A New Zealand study found that the guilt associated with eating chocolate (as found in Easter eggs) is a waste of time and very bad for you.

Women who celebrate their chocolate experience enjoy better weight control and overall wellbeing.

The study

The study, from the Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, looked at chocolate cake rather than Easter eggs, possibly because scientists are heathens and didn’t want to drag religion into it.

The researchers found that women who associated chocolate cake with guilt “were less successful at losing weight over a three month period compared to those associating chocolate cake with celebration”.

They were also “less successful at maintaining their weight over an 18 month period”.

In other words, despite all that angst, fat came to stay anyway.

Further, guilt-ridden cake-eaters suffered:

  • Feelings of helplessness and loss of control
  • Unhealthy eating behaviours
  • Greater body image dissatisfaction
  • And reduced quality of life.

That’s a lot of psychic pain for the sake of a little pudding.

Does guilt have any benefits?

Guilt can be a motivating factor in some circumstances, but not when it comes to abandoning chocolate for the sake of a healthier lifestyle.

The authors wrote: “This study did not find any evidence for adaptive or motivational properties of guilt.

“Participants associating chocolate cake with guilt did not report more positive attitudes or stronger intentions to eat healthy than did those associating chocolate cake with celebration.”

And, again, it’s worth mentioning that women who celebrate chocolate lose more weight and keep it off longer.

This was a 2014 study that was picked up recently by Johns Hopkins Medicine for an online article: ‘The Benefits of Having a Healthy Relationship with Chocolate’.

How to move on from guilt

Johns Hopkins advises that “a key in reversing the negative effects of these chocolate cravings is to stop making it taboo”.

In fact, labelling any food as completely off-limits “usually results in increased cravings for that food and guilt when you eventually do eat it”.

The authors advise:

  • Try setting some terms for your relationship with chocolate
  • Savour it and enjoy it with purpose and intention, without the guilt
  • Don’t sit in front of the TV with your hand in a bottomless bowl of chocolate treats. Instead, be mindful of when and why you are eating it.

The authors suggest a healthy relationship with chocolate “helps you enjoy it in moderation and without guilt, rather than cycling between trying to completely avoid it and then overdoing it”.

And dark chocolate is a health food

As The New Daily has previously reported, eating dark chocolate “is associated with reduced risk of cardio-metabolic diseases including stroke, coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes”.

A 2015 study from the University Hospital Düsseldorf found that
consuming cocoa flavanols (antioxidants) lowers blood pressure, increases flow-mediated vasodilation and improves the blood cholesterol profile.

The researchers concluded that cocoa flavanols might “be able to reduce age-related risk of developing cardiovascular diseases”.

And there is emerging evidence that dark chocolate reduces the severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

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