Happiness, Pleasure, and Chocolate Milk

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. Ecclesiastes 3:12

Meditations in Motion

I attempted my own version of a long run yesterday. My stamina must improve before the Marine Corps Marathon, but, since my hip injury, I have to be very careful how I go about increasing it. I want to practice walking quickly since I will be doing a lot of walking at MCM and I don’t want to put undue strain on my already tender hip, but I need to work on endurance.

I decided to do the elliptical for an hour, then switch to an outdoors run/walk for an additional two hours. I tried to keep my speed up on the elliptical, to simulate fatigue in my legs and reminded myself to walk more often than I typically would on the roads to save wear and tear on my hip. It worked very well, except for one thing – nutrition and hydration (that’s what runners call food and drink).

I took a 24 oz. water bottle to drink while on the elliptical and nothing for the run. I had eaten a small piece of toast with honey before going to the gym, but I was on the go for three hours without consuming any calories. Oh, I know better. I was just so caught up with my endurance strategy, I didn’t think about fuel. My hip was fine at the end of the run, but I was parched (even after a water fountain stop at the church where I volunteer for Meals on Wheels) and woozy from hunger.

As soon as I got home, I chugged down a big glass of chocolate milk, my go-to treat after a difficult run, and felt better immediately. As I prepared my breakfast – fruit, yogurt, granola, and a hard-boiled egg that I split with my dog (he gets the yolk) – I craved another glass of chocolate milk. I am proud to say I resisted that urge.

It’s not surprising, from a biochemical point of view, that I would crave that second glass of chocolate milk. Chocolate milk does have some redeeming features. It contains proteins, fats, some fat-soluble nutrients, and lots of sugar. I just checked; the eight-ounce serving I consumed contained 28 grams of sugar. That’s a big pile of sugar.

Meditations in Motion

Consuming sugar does something funny to our brains. It causes them to release a chemical called dopamine, the feel-good hormone, as a reward for ingesting this high-calorie substance. To someone watching his or her weight, this may seem counter-intuitive, but for most of the time humans have been on earth, we struggled to consume enough calories. Our brains are not wired to worry about us eating too many calories. When we eat calorie-dense food like sugar, our brains say “You hit the jackpot! Good for you. Eat some more.

It’s a very similar mechanism to addiction. We naturally crave that hit of dopamine that sugar produces. As with any addiction, though, the amount of dopamine released decreases as we build up a tolerance to sugar. We eventually need a higher and higher amount of sugar to produce an ever-dwindling amount of dopamine.

Meditations in Motion

There are, of course, a variety of objects we could substitute for the word “sugar” in the paragraph above. Various forms of drugs, of course, alcohol, or even, surprisingly, social media. Yes, getting “liked” on social media causes our brain to produce dopamine, just like drugs do. We can literally become addicted to Facebook (or blogging – think about how good it feels to receive a really insightful comment or another subscriber).

We are wired to be pleasure-seekers, all of us. We naturally crave that hit of dopamine. It’s how we have survived to pass our genes down for thousands of years. The question I have to ask myself, though, is does pleasure bring happiness?

Meditations in Motion

Pleasure implies a short-term feeling. You get to feel pleasure by acquiring something  –  drugs, sugar, alcohol, a social media “like“, a win at gambling, even sex. The dopamine that is released, however, by any of these acquisitions, quickly dissipates, leaving us craving more. Pleasure is an emotion of want, selfish. It comes from the body. Pleasure needs something external. It is stimulation, excitement, the city.

Happiness, on the other hand, is a long-term emotion. Happiness does not need, it has enough. It is brought about by internal feelings. Happiness is compassionate, satisfied. You can be happy by being a kind, caring and gentle person. Happiness comes from the heart; it is internal. Happiness is relaxation, tranquility, the forest.

Not all pleasure is bad, of course. A soothing massage can bring pleasure, just like a warm bubble bath on a cold afternoon or seeing the toothless smile of a baby. I would never counsel anyone to forego all pleasure, nor am I advocating we all become ascetics. We all could use healthy pleasures in our lives. I appreciate a glass of hearty Zinfandel or a well-made panna cotta (my new obsession ever since my trip to Italy) as much as the next person.

Meditations in Motion

Some pleasures, however, can only be enjoyed in moderation. One glass of wine with dinner, for example, not five; a handful of M&Ms, not a pound. There is a big difference in the quality of the pleasure inherent in an intimate encounter with a loved partner and unrestrained sexual excess. Little old ladies spending an afternoon pulling the lever of nickel slot machines for fun (like my mom used to do) are worlds apart from a desperate addict gambling away his family’s grocery money.

There are some destructive pleasures – a cocaine rush or heroin euphoria come to mind – that should, of course, be avoided completely.

One way that we can appreciate the distinction between pleasure and happiness is when we are faced with making a decision. If you are faced with a dilemma, ask yourself, “Will this bring me pleasure or happiness?” Foregoing momentary pleasure for long-lasting happiness is the way to a peaceful life.

I can, therefore, feel virtuous and smug about my decision to pass up the second glass of chocolate milk after my long run yesterday. I was giving up a momentary pleasure (deliciousness) for long-lasting happiness (keeping my girlish figure). Of course, I guess I would have been even more virtuous if I had passed on the chocolate milk altogether. That’s what happens to me when I am hungry – I tend to make bad decisions. I should have read Titus 3:3. I wonder if he had chocolate milk in mind when he was writing this verse.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.

I am linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Char at Trekking Thru, Shank You Very Much for Dream Team, Abounding Grace for Gracefull Tuesday, Eclectic Evelyn for Words on Wednesday, Meghan Weyerbacher for Tea and Word, and Shelbee on the Edge for Spread the Kindness.








  1. Oddly enough chocolate mile isn’t my thing. And I personally think it has way too much sugar to really be good for recovery, OTOH, sundaes are one of my favorite treats after a race. 🙂

    Your definition of happiness vs pleasure is great! Food is something I’ve struggled with my whole life — and probably will my whole life — although I’ve come a long way. Happiness is definitely an inside job, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, that’s a lot of thought to put into a glass of milk. There’s an excellent novel that delves into happiness v. pleasure. The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson is a quick light read with lasting depth. If I’ve convinced you to read it, please let me know when you’re finished. I wrote a blog post on the topic of happiness using the book as a prompt (well maybe something more). It would be pleasurable if you read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! I have a long history with chocolate milk. ONe time after a marathon, I gave my son my chocolate milk to HOLD for me. He thought I was giving it to him to DRINK. I was almost in tears when I found out it was gone. We still laugh about it. I will check out the book. I just finished one (Educated by Tara Westover – meh!) and am looking for another.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “If you are faced with a dilemma, ask yourself, “Will this bring me pleasure or happiness?” Foregoing momentary pleasure for long-lasting happiness is the way to a peaceful life.” – I love this!

    And thank God for chocolate milk.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We would get along well.

    Chocolate milk always makes feel better after a run.

    So does a glass of red wine after a stressful day.

    We need our simple pleasures.

    Of course in moderation.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pleasure is a city, happiness is a forest — vivid and apt metaphors. And to each their own pleasures: I could go the rest of my life without drinking another glass of chocolate milk and I wouldn’t miss it in the least (it’s probably been decades since I’ve had any). On the other hand, I ran zero miles this week, same as every week 🙂

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  6. Shortly after I began my walking regimen in 2011, I read about chocolate milk fulfilling all the needs an athlete could want after a big run, a long bike ride or a good workout. So, when I started walking more and more miles, I felt “entitled” to that big, tall glass of chocolate milk, and I looked forward to it every day. Right now, if I was to go to the search bar in my blog, I’d probably find dozens of references to enjoying my glass of chocolate milk after my walk. But no more. Me, the sensible eater, too sensible in fact, got gout in one toe two years ago. I was NOT going to go on any meds, but decided to fix that problem myself. I researched around to discover what I was doing or eating to cause the problem. I discovered most of the problem was my sensible eating – too many beans, tuna, turkey, oranges, whole milk products and most of all sugar. But not sugar from sweets, except that sugar as you point out in the glass of chocolate milk. I had switched back to whole milk and cottage cheese, after using light or skim for so many years – after all, the doctors said “whole and fat milk products are better for you” … I was happy to go back. I started watching all my sugar and since I gave up sweets in 2011 I was surprised to find how much sugar was in clementines, the raisins and syrup I used in my oatmeal. I cut it all out. I cut out the sensible lentil soup and hearty bean soup and switched to canned salmon from tuna, and to chicken instead of turkey for lunchmeat. Whew – no meds but no more chocolate milk either. Perhaps I should have it occasionally for a treat but I quit cold turkey. I can just picture that glass of milk now and wish I were downing it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had read the articles touting the “health benefits” of chocolate milk too. I always figured they were sponsored by the dairy council! 😀 My oldest son has gout too – in his knee! It is extremely painful (as you know). I don’t remember all of the foods that his doctor told him were no-nos, but I do know that shrimp and beer are on the banned list. I am glad to hear you took matters into your own hands and do not need medications. My son must take them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie – my mom had many medical maladies – she was hit by a car at age 11 and spent the next 4 years in the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. She had 42 orthopedic operations over her lifetime. She passed away in 2010, but about 15 years ago, she woke up one morning and her index finger was throbbing and very red on the first joint. She suffered with cellulitis in her legs the last 20 years of her life and was on a constant regimen of antibiotics to prevent a flare-up. She thought the flare-up was an infection and increased her antibiotics and went to the doctor. He told her it was gout. “In my finger?” she asked. He said you could get it at any joint. “Just like that – overnight?” He said it was there and just surfaced, likely triggered by something she ate. He went through a list of foods and there was nothing he pinpointed for her to stop eating, but the occasional liverwurst sandwich (no organ meat allowed if you have gout) … he told her she did not drink enough water. She did not want to take meds because of the side effects as she was on many other medications. So she upped her water intake. I researched online and discovered I similarly was not drinking enough water so I drank it until I felt like I sloshed around when I walked. I eliminated almost everything I was eating. It went away and I am afraid to stray from my diet should it return – as a walker, I didn’t/don’t want any foot issues. Below is the blog I wrote about it – it is long, but I was just so amazed that everything I ate was “wrong” and these were things that I thought were healthy. I am not on any medications – I saw my mom taking many medications, some which counter-acted and some caused bad side effects. She was on the strongest Motrin and she did not always take it with a full stomach. I would plead with her, but she said “I’m fine, I can swallow the pill without food” … that was not the issue, the issue was taking it on an empty stomach. She passed away from sepsis as a result of a perforated bowel, likely caused by the strong Motrin on an empty stomach. I am happy that at age 62 I’m only taking a multiple vitamin (and cod liver oil capsules just for the Winter). You and I both bought into the chocolate milk is good for you spiel, but after a long run or walk, it sure was a worthwhile treat to come home to. 🙂 https://lindaschaubblog.net/2017/03/05/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-2/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your poor mom! I think my son drinks a lot. I always see him with a cup of herbal tea in his hand whenever we visit. I will read the post on your gout and probably send it to Ryan, too. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, my mom was a trooper and had so much pain her entire life, so I never take my good health for granted having witnessed my mom’s pain firsthand. It seems like I have read that green tea is a diuretic so that would be good to drink to thwart gout attacks. I’ve tried green tea many times through the years because it is good for you. But I have a few cups of it, and never go back to it. Years ago I even got some flavored green tea for the holidays (cinnamon, berry, peppermint) and still couldn’t get it down. That is just me because many people love green and other herbal teas.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I have a similar conversation quite often with the parents of my young patients, who insist that the child will only drink juice. I try to explain the addictive properties of sugar. Mostly I get blank stares. I don’t eat a lot of sweet treats and when I do, I notice this rush as you described. It really does feel like I took a drug!

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  8. I do enjoy chocolate milk sometimes after a run, but I really only like one brand and they never have that at the race finish, lol. Fairlife is my brand of choice because it has less sugar so it’s not as sweet as other brands,, like Nesquik.

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    • There is a local dairy near me that makes “the best chocolate milk in the world”, as my grandkids and I call it! Anything else is kind of disappointing!


  9. Awwwww, after all that work you did, you should have just gone for it and drank the second glass of chocolate milk 😉 I had a similar experience to not fueling/hydrating recently…when my friend and I did out 10-miler last Friday after work (ha! Actually during the dinner hour, none the less), I grabbed a couple of Honey Stinger chews to eat before I left the house, and that was it. I was so focused on getting those 10 miles done (in the crazy rain and lightning/thunder for part of it), that I didn’t really seem to need the fuel/ Of course, when we finished, I was ready to eat a bear LOL

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    • Ha! That is the way I usually finish a long run – ready to eat a bear. I have a certain number that I don’t let my weight to go above, and I am perilously close to that number right now. that’s the main reason I didn’t drink the 2nd glass 😀


  10. Hello Laurie,

    This is a wonderful post, one that I should read on a daily basis. Ultimately, the key is in moderation, and that is what I struggle with. I am all out when it comes to work, love, passion etc. But that also means I’m all out when it comes to anything good like dessert. I’ve been working on moderation and it’s not an easy task.


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