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02/09/2004: "The Other Chocolate Buzz"

NFT Feature|AMP|#160;|AMP|#160;If you know me, you come to realize that one thing in life I am passionate about is food. Food plays a very important role in my life, which probably has something to do with the love roll that currently encompasses my abdomen right now, although I will continue to lay blame primarily on my sedentary career for that one. Two significant aspects of my caloric intake that are notable are my absolute love of all things fruit, and my highly obvious sweet tooth. The two may be combined to some degree, but as friends and family will tell you, serve me a big bowl of fruit salad and some sticky buns and I'll be quite happy.

Of course, my sweet tooth does not always lead me to baked goods. In fact, it's the exception rather than the rule. In highschool there was a period of many months, possibly even the bulk of one school year, that I consumed a bag of Skittles each and every day. Looking back on that now I simply shudder, but back then I simply needed my refined sugar fix. More recently you will find me peering into whatever vending machines are available at my place of work, likely with the intent of consuming Nibs or a chocolate bar or some form from within. I've seriously cut back on these trips as well, but my love of refined sugar remains.

This past Christmas my wife, knowing my sweet tooth all to well and also recognizing my penchant for dark chocolate, lovingly put a 400g dark chocolate Toblerone in my stocking. With my 2-year-old daughter running around with an ingrained love of sugar as well, I had to find a place to keep it safe until I could find time to consume it. I put it in the back of the freezer and forgot about it until last week. Knowing that I'd never be able to eat it at home without a certainly little monkey wanting some, I opted to take it to work. My wife doesn't like dark chocolate, so this was actually a reasonable, unselfish course of action.

The Toblerone made it to work this past Wednesday. By Friday afternoon the only evidence that there was ever such an item in my possession was some discarded aluminum foil in my garbage pail, an empty triangular tube, and a growing realization that what I had just done may, in fact, not be a good thing. So started my Other Chocolate Buzz.

The first Chocolate Buzz I had was way back in 1992 in university. I had only been there a matter of a couple of months, and made a trip home for one weekend to visit friends and family. Our next-door neighbour, an elderly widow with an ugly shitzu, decided to gift me with a tin of assorted chocolates. It was the size of a typical cookie tin, but with individually wrapped assorted chocolates inside. Of course, I squirreled them away in my bag and took them back to my dorm room when I left again.

Back at the dorm I thought I was doing well with these chocolates. I had them on my desk, and when a day of classes was over I would relax in my room before dinner and scarf a few down. After dinner I'd have a few more, and perhaps throughout the evening I'd have yet more. I was quite enjoying them, and they were brightening up what was otherwise a seemingly dreary existence.

After a few nights, I realized that during the evening I was feeling down, somewhat disheartened. I couldn't exactly put my finger on what was going on, but I knew that something wasn't right. I would feel sluggish, apathetic, and generally low. I started wondering if perhaps I was becoming depressed for some reason, but I could not for the life of me put my finger on any cause for this. After nearly a week of this, I was getting a bit worried.

Then I had an epiphany. I wasn't feeling depressed, I was crashing down at the same time each day from a sugar high brought on from consuming the chocolates my neighbour back home had given me. The pattern became obvious; I would get back from classes, binge on cheap chocolates, ride the high through dinner, and crash in the evening and feel low until I went to bed. I simply cut way back on the chocolates (that were getting pretty low in number by this time in any event) and lo and behold, I was back to normal. I've told that story many times before, and it's one mistake I intend to learn from for a long time.

Sadly, the lesson I learned was that consuming large amounts of sugar over a small period of time would guarantee a sugar crash later. What I didn't learn was that dark chocolate has a caffeine in it, as well as ample amounts of sugar. When someone that does not drink coffee, tea, or any other caffeinated beverage regularly eats that much dark chocolate, the results are anything but pretty. And I found that out in spades this weekend.

I thought I had done a fairly good job at pacing myself with the Toblerone. It was an excellent piece of chocolate, and the nougat chunks inside are always a favourite of mine. However, Friday seemed to be an especially weak day for me in regards to this pointy piece of gastronomical paradise, and I started back into it far too early in the day, and just kept going until it had all disappeared. Although I'm certain I ate less than half of it that day alone, I know for sure that I ate more Friday than I did on either previous day alone.

By Friday afternoon I was feeling kind of strange. Not exactly buzzed, but certainly not in my normal headspace. The afternoon doziness that I can quite easily get was simply not existent, and I was incredibly thirsty. I wondered if I had done something horribly wrong, but really hoped I hadn't. Saturday morning was the realization that I had.

I woke up Saturday feeling as if I hadn't slept nearly long enough, and that what sleep I did get was interrupted or simply a really bad sleep. I was cranky, out of sorts, and was sporting a mild headache to boot. Only halfway through the day did I realize that I did get a full 8 hours of sleep, including lots of REM sleep, so a lack of sleep could not account for my state. Slowly piercing the clouds that encircled my mind came the realization that perhaps I was coming down from not only a sugar high, but a caffeine high from the previous day, and maybe even experiencing withdrawal symptoms as well. I had exposed my body to large amounts of rich, dark chocolate in increasing amounts for three days in succession, the last being an orgy of cocoa gluttony. My body was expecting more, but instead it got cereal and fruit juice.

Sunday was not much better. I was still mentally hazy, still had a shorter fuse than normal, and was sporting both a smart headache and some signs of dehydration that had been with me for 48 hours. As of this writing my body is slowly getting back to normal, and I'm sure I'll be fully hydrated once again by the close of business on Monday. One thing is for sure, I've once again learned a valuable lesson.

Chocolate is good, but in moderation. It is actually difficult for me to write "chocolate is good" right now, because I am repulsed by the very idea of chocolate. I've had way too much, and now I'm gun shy. I'm sure that if I were a coffee drinker this entire episode would be but a footnote appended to the end of Friday, but being the java teetotaler that I am, it's haunting me for days. You had better be sure that if a Toblerone ever shows up in my stocking again, I'm going to treat it with much more respect next time. When never having chocolate again in your life seems like a reasonable idea, you know there's a lesson that needs to be learned.


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