Emotional Eating: Been There, Done That

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t recognize emotional eating? What are your “comfort foods”, the ones you turn to when you’ve had a bad day or week? A bit of internet surfing tells me that favorites include mac and cheese, chicken soup, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Hmmm, I don’t see any vegetables or fruits, unless you count apple pie with ice cream. The Brain Warrior’s Way* and the Omni Diet* will teach you healthy eating that will help you lose weight and improve your health without sacrificing taste or the pleasure you get from food, but the topic of emotional eating deserves some attention because that may be what led to the excess weight you want to lose.

I bring this up because I came across a study that sheds some surprising light on emotional eating. The researchers at the University of Delaware note that the choice of foods we turn to when we’re down is significantly different than the ones we opt for when we’re in a good mood. The example they gave was the choice of grapes when you’re in a good mood vs. chocolate candies when you’re blue. This suggests that emotional eating isn’t just what you do when you’re stressed out and need comfort but includes the healthy choices you make when you’re happy.

To find out if they were right about this, they recruited volunteers for two studies. For the first one, they had 211 participants from a local PTA read uplifting articles about someone who had a great life and achieved lots of goals. Afterward, when given food choices, the volunteers opted for the healthy foods available instead of the comfort foods.

For a second study, they worked with 315 undergraduates from a large Midwestern university. The students were asked to read negative articles about someone who had a sad life and did not achieve goals. Predictably, when given food choices, they opted for the comfort foods over the healthy ones.

Thinking Ahead to Overcome Emotional Eating

The upshot of all this is that individuals who are in good moods make healthier food choices. In the back of their minds they’re often thinking about the future health benefits of the decisions they make. The opposite is true of choices made while in negative moods. That’s when we focus most on the immediate taste and sensory experience of eating comfort foods, according to the study’s findings.

But the researchers also found that people in negative moods can still make healthy food choices because they’re not locked in to making bad choices. They can focus beyond the present. And that may be one of the secrets to overcoming the impulsive, emotional eating that sabotages weight loss efforts and, worse, your future health.

The other secret to overcoming emotional eating (the negative kind – keep doing what you’re doing when you’re in a positive mood) is to keep a food journal. Study after study has demonstrated that this is what works for weight loss, no matter what approach you try. And it is particularly important when you’re faced with cravings for that mac and cheese or whatever else you turn to when you’re stressed. Jot down what you’ve eaten, the portion size, the time of day and the situations that preceded the meal or snack. Were you stressed? Have PMS? Ambushed by a craving? After a week, you’ll see a pattern emerge and you’ll be able to devise workable solutions. I promise.

If you need a food journal, we have some for you at the BrainMD store. Click HERE* for more details.

*(Get 21% OFF with code TANA21)

For more information on cravings, check out my blog here.

 

Related Blogs

4 Ways to Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder
As the clocks fall back, darkness descends on us earlier, temperatures drop, and the year’s...
7 Worst Foods for Your Memory
If you find yourself struggling to recall a word, forgetting where you placed your keys,...
3 Easy Ways to Teach Your Family Gratitude This Thanksgiving Season
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, ’tis the season for reflecting on all we have...
How to Prevent Diabetes and Its Brain-Damaging Effects
November is National Diabetes Month, highlighting a disease that hits close to home for too...
What to Do When the World Is Trying to Poison Your Children with Unhealthy Foods
My husband, Daniel, and I recently received a question from a new team member on...
Trauma Denial: Is It Holding You Back From Healing?
We know that trauma can create all kinds of havoc in the body—making us more...
Fatigue: Are You Tired of Feeling Exhausted?
If you’re struggling to find the energy for everyday tasks—like going to work, parenting, or...
5 Healthiest Fall Vegetables for Your Brain and Mood
As the air cools and the days get shorter, it’s natural to reach for heartier...
Don’t Forget the Brain in the Battle Against Domestic Violence
Every year, October ushers in Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time for us to reflect...