Posted by: Hourglass PJ5 MAR 2014
Many of us are familiar with emotional eating. You have had a tough week at work and the healthy meal you had planned gets jettisoned for a takeaway; or you have had bad news and reach for a chocolate bar. Not everyone does this, and many people will say they stop eating when they are upset. But if you know that low mood influences you to eat unhealthy food, you may be glad to know there is a growing amount of research to back up what you experience.
But what if those so affected could make better food choices when in an emotional state? Bad weeks, bad news and stress can be a reason for significant calorie intake and it would be good news if we could make healthier food choices at these times or simply eat as we have planned.
A new paper from Meryl Gardner at the University of Delaware says that there is more to stress-eating than simply emotion. Her work shows that thinking about the future may help people in an emotional state to make better food choices.
But why? Findings from two of Professor Gardner’s studies, one with people in a positive mood and one with people in a negative mood, confirmed that people in a good mood are more likely to make healthy food choices while those in a low mood are more likely to make less healthy choices. The reason seems to be that people in a positive mood think about the future and the idea of staying healthy while those in a low mood concentrate on the here and now and want an immediate sensory experience with little thought for the future.
So, and this is the hard bit, the lesson is that when you are feeling low, do not think about food but perhaps call a friend or book a holiday instead. It is similar to the advice we could give to someone trying to stop smoking but wanting to reach for a cigarette.
This research may also help to explain why some people put on weight easily. Perhaps they have little invested in the future and maintaining their health.