THE LEVEL –– Researchers know that visual exposure to high-calorie foods stimulates the striatum, the part of our brain that modulates impulse control.
My son knows that too. Ask him who always eats his Halloween candy or once dug a partially eaten package of Oreo cookies out of the trash (hey, it was double bagged).
Reese’s does too. It’s ‘Reese’s. Not Sorry’ (#NotSorry) campaign hit a nerve and, perhaps, the conscience of American consumers, who know that if a jumbo Halloween-sized bag of Reese’s treats is bought, it will be eaten long before the holiday.
This, of course, is the embodiment of a favored childhood classic “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” The story’s ending is always the same: He’s going to want another…
We emotional eaters understand. For us, emotional eating is not a random thing. If we feel sad, depressed, stressed, or lonely, we use food as a soothing distraction — always.
Everyone craves comfort foods sometimes. It’s a natural phenomenon that’s universally understood, according to Dr. Sharam Heshmat, who says they provide pleasure and temporarily make us feel better.
When that connection between negative emotions and unhealthy foods becomes a more permanent one, that’s a signal that you’ve become an emotional eater, according to Psychology Today.
Bad moods trigger emotional eating. and related weight gain, which has been well personified during the pandemic under the moniker of the ‘COVID-20.’
The connection between negative emotions and unhealthy foods is well understood by researchers who say that in a bad mood, we are drawn toward sugary, high-fat dishes (aka Comfort Foods).
Harvard Health recognizes the tendency as a natural one because our bodies require more energy to function when stressed.
We crave what we need, according to Harvard Health, which reports simple carbohydrates to provide the fastest route for our bodies to respond to severe stress.
Such emotional eating for many is a temporary state, but when it becomes more prevalent, individuals run the risk of fostering a permanent and damaging condition.
“Emotional eating left unchecked can become an invisible plague,” said Martin Seligman, the University of Pennsylvania psychologist credited for pioneering the field of positive psychiatry.
For emotional eaters, getting beyond #NotSorry is a process.
If you respond to any emotional situation—happy or sad—by overeating, and you want to stop, there are solutions, according to Psych.com experts, who caution that you’re not going to find them in your refrigerator, on a pastry cart, or in a restaurant.
Donuts are among Rebel Wilson’s favs and a definite weakness, according to the comedian, who shared her story of how she broke free from emotional eating this week on The Drew Barrymore Show.
“The first and most important step toward recovery is acknowledgment,” says Wilson. “I feel more in control now.”
Editor’s Note: Many licensed physicians and practitioners, including registered mental health professionals, dieticians, and certified fitness-related professionals can help address emotional eating concerns. Ask your doctor for a referral. Additional resources are detailed below:
Lead Image Courtesy of Hope to Cope, an online community of the award-winning mental health magazine, esperanza. It strives to increase the awareness of depression and anxiety and to provide hope and empowerment to those in the depression and anxiety community—those with these disorders, along with their families, caregivers, and healthcare professionals.