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8 Things About Emotional Eating You Never Knew

 

emotional eating

We have a long way to go to understand emotional eating, though there’s been a lot of recent research on it to provide us clues as to why we do it.

Emotional eating works to soothe and provide comfort. It’s okay at times, but can spiral out of control easily. It helps to know as much about emotionally eating as possible.

Dr. Susan Albers, author of the brand new book “50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food” shares these 8 things about emotional eating you probably never knew.

(click first for slideshow)

 

1. You only get a three-minute fix. A study reported in the Journal of Appetite gave participants chocolate and tested how long the “feel good” feeling lasts. It turns out that comfort and bliss only last three minutes (Macht and Mueller 2003). Three minutes! Isn’t it a surprise how short-lived comfort eating can be?

2. Cake plus guilt equals less weight loss. Cake is a comfort food that can be associated with guilt and worry or pleasure and enjoyment. In a study of dieters, those who associated cake with “guilt” vs. “celebration” were less likely to lose weight over a three-month period. Those who had positive feelings and associated cake with being a comfort food were more likely to lose weight during those three months (Kuijer and Boyce 2014). The take-home message: guilt can derail your efforts.

3. Comfort foods are not cross-cultural. Have you assumed that chocolate is the go-to feel-better food everywhere in the world? It’s not. People in different countries and comfort from various foods. For example, in Japan, miso soup, okayu (rice porridge that is made when children are sick), and ramen are popular comfort foods. In India, it’s samosas, potato-stuffed crisps served with spicy green chutney. In Italy, it’s ribbons of fresh pasta or potato gnocchi..

4. There’s a gender difference. According to one study, males prefer warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods (such as steak, casseroles, and soup), while females prefer comfort foods that are more snack-related (such as chocolate and ice cream) (Wansink, Cheney, and Chan 2003).

5. We choose out of habit. When we’re stressed out, we tend to revert back to the foods we frequently eat—whether they are healthy or not. A study presented at the Institute for Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Expo tested fty-nine MBA students at the University of California during midterm exams. During peak stress times, students were more likely to choose the snacks they eat most frequently (Neal, Wood, and Drolet 2013). This is likely because it takes less thought and cognitive effort to choose familiar foods.

6. PMS doesn’t trigger hormonal chocolate craving. Many people are under the misperception that hormonal changes make us crave chocolate during that time of the month. However, 80 percent of menopausal women still report chocolate cravings despite no longer having menstrual cycles or significant variability in their hormone levels during the course of a month (Hormes and Rozin 2009). The theory is that our desire for comfort and our stress about the approaching time of month causes us to turn to a culturally reinforced way of coping. In other words, we expect that chocolate will help, so we begin to crave it, not exactly because hormones are driving us to it.

7. Ritual is comforting. Do you eat comfort foods in a certain way? For example, do you eat the icing off your cupcake first or cut your peanut butter sandwich in half every time? Most of us have particular ways in which we eat food. A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that performing a ritual (like cutting a food in a particular way or eating it in a specic sequence) makes food taste better and gives you more enjoyment (Vohs et al. 2013). In this study, participants broke a chocolate bar in half without unwrapping it and ate it one half at a time. The non-ritual group ate the chocolate however they wanted. Those who performed the ritual with the chocolate bar enjoyed it more.

8. Ritual is comforting. Do you eat comfort foods in a certain way? For example, do you eat the icing off your cupcake first or cut your peanut butter sandwich in half every time? Most of us have particular ways in which we eat food. A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that performing a ritual (like cutting a food in a particular way or eating it in a specic sequence) makes food taste better and gives you more enjoyment (Vohs et al. 2013). In this study, participants broke a chocolate bar in half without unwrapping it and ate it one half at a time. The non-ritual group ate the chocolate however they wanted. Those who performed the ritual with the chocolate bar enjoyed it more.

Reprinted with permission: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. copyright © 2015 Dr. Susan Albers

 

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