Thinking about Chocolate

Well, it’s Easter weekend.  Life in the Safe House is $*.7!  The one consolation is that we have more than the usual amount of chocolate.  Awesome.    I couldn’t bear to blog about life’s ups and downs, so I’ve distracted myself with this little bit about my favourite interest!

Research shows that, on average, adopters Britons enjoy about 11kg (24lb) of chocolate a year, making the UK one of the biggest consumers of chocolate in the world. Only the Swiss and Germans eat more.

It’s not a new thing. There are stories through history about cocoa and chocolate and under “discovering chocolate” section on Cadbury.com they say that “in the 17th century, the Dutch … brought cocoa beans from America to Holland, where cocoa was greatly acclaimed and recommended by doctors as a cure for almost every ailment…”  [Bring it on!]

Some researchers say that Dark Chocolate

  • Has many powerful antioxidants
  • Is rich in minerals such as Iron, Zinc, Magnesium and Copper
  • May reduce risk of heart disease
  • May improve brain function
  • Increases “feel good” chemicals

There’s a neuropsychologist in US who wrote about “The Resilient Brain” and she works with and writes about people with brain injury and says that dark chocolate is great for brain health. So I do wonder, given that our children’s brains need healing too, if similar applies. It probably can’t do any harm although I’m not sure I can spare my good quality chocolate for them!

What makes us reach for chocolate in times of stress or difficulty? How come we use chocolate as relaxation or calming aid? Well, when we look at it in a sensory and psychological way it may explain.

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What senses are most active when we eat chocolate?

  • There’s the look of it – highly attractive packaging, smooth dark sultry shapes …
  • There’s the smell – chocolate, vanilla, sweet, bitter …
  • There’s the taste – firing all those taste buds across your tongue, sweet, bitter…
  • There’s also texture – that smooth, silky, sweet, stick to the roof of your mouth

In addition, we know what to expect, there’s a learned response in use, so we think about chocolate and our mouth waters; we remember the previous experiences of calm, joy, comfort, relaxation or whatever.

So we enjoy the feeling that eating chocolate produces in us.

Here’s the other thing: when we are babies, our first soothing experience is when we get milk sensation in our mouths, with the smell of our mother, the taste of familiar sweet, smooth, comforting milk. So it’s one of the closest things to replicating our early soothing experiences.

We know when we are born our brains are hard-wired to respond to certain things in a certain way and that soothing is one of them. We just don’t realise that chocolate provides that for us too!

Do you prefer your chocolate with nuts in or hard and cold from the fridge? Then the need for crunch is, in sensory integration terms, related to other emotions being associated too! (That’s a whole other blog of information about sensory eating.)

What about the psychological stuff?

Chocolate does also produce those “feel good” chemicals yet some scientific people would argue that our bodies regulate those chemicals so that if we have too much our body try to create a balance. These researchers at University of Texas say that we could become desensitized to the effects if we have too much over time! Well, I for one, am happy to be their guinea pig in that study!

However, remember too, we can learn behaviour from our experiences.  So were you, as a child, given a ‘treat’ for good conduct? This practice of using food as a treat or as a mood enhancer then means that when we find ourselves feeling stressed, tired, fed up, our mind is wired to desire those same foods because it believes that is what makes us feel good again.

 

Whatever is driving your chocolate eating, remember the sugar intake that goes alongside consuming large amounts of chocolate is another issue. Consuming more dark chocolate – that is over 85% cocoa – is considered much better because of the higher amount of cocoa, so has more health benefits than milk chocolate although there are similar calories in both dark and milk chocolate!

Interesting eh?  Will this change your chocolate eating?  It doesn’t change mine!!

 

I linked this with The Adoption Social and the Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO

 

 

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A Look Back

A Look Back

I’ve spent a lot of time in the family and in my blog writing about my Biggey at the moment. However, as I write this in February 2014 and share with the online community that is The Adoption Social‘s theme of One Year On, it has made me stop and reflect a little as I take a look back over 2013.

My Little girl can step forward and take centre stage for this one! This has been a good year for her. This time last year she was struggling with many changes taking place in her little 9 year old life. There was a change in teachers in her class at school (for the better as far as I was concerned). However change is difficult and she struggled more with a fear of the unknown so that added to the increased anxiety she was experiencing. She was also having great difficulty with school work as they were looking at Victorians and studied The Street Child where there is focus on an orphan named Jim, with no shoes, no food, a mother who died and so on.

Later they also worked on Greek Myths so they’ve got Medusa and her head of snakes and the rest of those lovely stories. Because she is emotionally much younger it is hard for her to differentiate myth, legend, story from real. It also connects to her own scary traumatic early life too (of course!).

She was mentally and physically quite a mess

I spent much of last year in and out of school and she spent much of the time in and out of class. Working somewhere else, on her own, on a project. I’m grateful that they were so accommodating and understanding of her issues and trauma but she was mentally and physically quite a mess. This was easily seen by

  • her eczema being quite bad
  • she wasn’t sleeping as much (which is always the clue with her)
  • her eating pattern suffers
  • the fingers and toes are chewed and picked until sore
  • there were lots of falling out with friends
  • many days the tears and drama and meltdowns needed to be mopped up when she got home.

Mop it up we did and kept going, as you do.

Move forward to Summer 2013

More tears because she didn’t want to go into Year 6! She didn’t want to grow up! Bless! (Who does, was all I could think, but it’s not helpful for her.) She did manage a whole 3 days of residential trip at the sea-side which was amazing and gave us lots to be able to reflect on and boost her confidence.

Again we worked on transition, new teachers and all that and we got through it. I was thankful that the TA is the same and one she trusts a lot and one of her teachers (she has two) is the same as last year. Our summer holiday to the same place as last two previous years was the best holiday yet. Fewer big issues, fewer bossy, stroppy child.

Come September she struggled a bit with Year 6 and had quite a lot of friendship issues but we managed to contain them without massive explosions (most of the time). Halloween was still pretty rough and Christmas was Christmas (we tend to skim past it as best we can) and the New Year arrived.

We can see her flourishing

She was away on another 3 day residential in January and came back delighted with herself that she had managed every activity and in her words

even the scary ones!

Since then, we can noticeably see her flourishing. There’s been a definite upward improvement in her abilities, confidence, behaviour, sleeping and friendships. I do believe these residentials  have boosted her enormously and have Miss L and Mrs A to thank (and many other wonderful people in school) for their contribution toward my Littley’s progress.

Now, I’m not saying it’s all hunky dory and easy. However we have to come to a level of acceptance (mostly) about just how she functions and what she is and is not capable of. We still have the rages, the defiance, the trauma, the sleeplessness, nightmares etc etc. However, we had a fab parents evening last week, where she is doing very well and meeting all targets and is much less angry. I am not in school as often either. So, well done my darling! Fingers cross we can keep this going.

Take a Look Back

I often say to adopters in this world where everything is fast paced and always rushing onwards to ‘what next’ and what is bigger / better / faster we need to stop for a moment and just take a look back. See how far we have come and take a moment to reflect on the positive little things.  Give ourselves and our little ones an enormous pat on the back!

 

I’ve linked this with The Adoption Social Weekly shout out #WASO

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out