Desperately seeking chocolate: Why I never get skinny
Posted by
12th Jan 2011

It’s no secret – I am a slave to my body chemistry. I realise that we are all slaves to our chemistries to some extent, but some people have better will power to overcome their hormones than others.

I don’t want to say that it’s the curse of my sex, because that’s simply not true – I know many level-headed, stable women. I am not one of them. My hormonal balance dictates my life. If my hormones are out of whack (and I don’t just mean pissy-girl-hormones, I also mean melatonin, dopamine, oxytocin…) then I don’t function properly. I often think that if I understood hormones better, and could be bothered to implement the schedule to keep them under control, then I could perform so much better in my everyday life.

An example: I suffer from mild seasonal affective disorder. I had long suspected, but things came to a head whilst I was doing my degree. I was literally falling asleep during lectures – I had to snack constantly just to give myself little boosts of energy to get through the day.
The problem with SAD (what a crappy acronym) is the production of melatonin. Melatonin is the sleepy hormone. It regulates our (usually) natural circadian rhythm (that 24-hour cycle of waking, sleeping…) – it’s the “hormone of darkness”, as it’s only produced in darkness (even low light levels inhibit melatonin production to some extent). So in periods where the light levels (lux index is important here) are subdued, melatonin is slowly ticking out throughout the day, producing drowsiness. This drowsiness wrecks the circadian rhythm, meaning I don’t sleep properly during the night, or wake fully during the day (during the winter, which can span (in terms of light intensity) from September to April in some cases). Result: zombie. Irritability, dull-wittedness, depression & anxiety follow in a slow motion row of dominoes…

Fixing the problem is fairly easy. I have a light box (it’s the sun, in a box. These are not cheap, but it is such an investment, considering the positive effects on my overall well being), and just 30 mins to one hour a day sorts the problem. It tricks my brain into realising it’s day time, and inhibits melatonin production. A few days in, and circadian rhythm is restored. I sleep properly at night, I wake up bright & refreshed, I attack the day positively, problems seem solveable…

But you know what? When you’re already feeling stressed & depressed, it’s a lot easier to eat a 400g bar of chocolate than sit in front of an intensely bright light for an hour.

Oh, and the photo there? That’s not cheese. That is white chocolate.

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