For Ernest Hemingway, it was oysters. For Nora Ephron, it was mashed potatoes. For countless recently dumped movie and television characters, it's ice cream.
Humans have been eating our emotions for as long as we can remember. But that does not make it a good idea. There's a science behind emotional eating and comfort food – the factors that cause cravings and the ways that giving in to those cravings affects us.
The big three hormones: cortisol, dopamine and serotonin.
Cortisol is our main stress hormone, triggering our fight-or-flight instinct. It also regulates how our bodies use carbohydrates, fats and proteins. So if we're stressed or anxious and cortisol kicks in, that can make us want to carbo-load.
"When we're stressed, our bodies are flooded in cortisol," said author and clinical psychologist Susan Albers. "That makes us crave sugary, fatty, salty foods."
Then there's dopamineNeurotransmitter associated with learning about rewards. It kicks into gear at the promise that something positive is about to happen, like eating a food you love. The comfort foods we turn to because they give us a surge of dopamine, Albers said, and we look for that high again and again.
"There's research that says even Anticipating eating certain dopamine general foods, "said Karen R. Koenig, a licensed clinical social worker, eating psychology expert, blogger and author. That explains why scientists call it "the anticipation molecule" – it's released when we know we're about to experience something pleasurable. "You do not even have to be eating [to generate dopamine], "Koenig told HuffPost.
And let's not forget serotonin, aka "the happy chemical," which when it drops to low levels can be linked to depression. Hormone and neurotransmitter, serotonin itself is not tryptophanamino acid necessary to produce serotonin, is. Famously associated with turkey, tryptophan is also found in cheese, and that Could be why Thanksgiving drumsticks and grilled cheese sandwiches are a comfort. carbs can also boost serotonin levels, which can improve your mood, and chocolate, too, is linked to a serotonin spike.
Eating can be a convenient distraction from emotions.
Sarah Allen, a psychologist specializing in mood and eating disorders, stress and boredom as two hand drivers of emotional eating. And that's because eating is a task.
"Eating gives us something to do. It fills our time, gives us a way to procrastinate, "Albers told HuffPost.
We often use lunch time, lunch, for instance, can provide a break in a dragging work day. So we come to associate with relief or even excitement, and it's only natural that we'd reach for those same feelings when we're worried or sad.
"Events do not have a meaning; we give them a meaning, "Koenig said. "The meaning of eating is, 'I'm going to be happy. I'm not going to be in emotional discomfort. I'll have this wonderful experience. '"
This connection is also falling when it comes to another kind of emotional eating: happy eating. Think about how to celebrate big deals and special occasions, or even just define fun outings. We treat ourselves to our favorite foods at a moment of pride or joy, and we link activities like going to a movie with getting indulge in candy.
We choose the familiar discomfort of food over the unfamiliar discomfort of feelings.
"There's conscious and unconscious emotional discomfort," Koenig said. "Sometimes we know [what we’re feeling], sometimes we do not – we just feel uneasy or not happy, and we do not deal with that. Instead, we just eat. Then we get what we know we'll have: shame, remorse, regret. … We are in the first discomfort, which is maybe unfamiliar and something we're more frightened of, for the familiar feelings that come after emotional eating. "
Comfort foods do not tend to be healthy. We want gold cake or pasta when we're emotionally eating. There are a few reasons for this, according to Albers: We have emotional memories around certain foods, which are more likely to involve your grandma's lasagna than a salad. More, our culture categorizes some foods as treats or guilty pleasures, and that's what we want to do or reward ourselves. Furthermore, something like a candy bar gives your blood sugar a surge, which makes you feel better in the moment.
But after we eat for emotional reasons, we can not feel too much – because we know we are overeating or consumed unhealthy foods. Or maybe we feel just fine – because we're celebrating a hard-earned promotion with a red velvet cupcake. Either way, we're replacing our original feelings with the emotions that arise from eating, from shame to satisfaction.
We associate comfort food with positive memories.
"Jordan, Troisi, associate professor of psychology at Sewanee university.
Worked on a 2015 study for the journal Appetite by the State University of New York at the Buffalo research team. The study involved a group of undergraduate students, some of whom were asked to remember when they were alienated in some way. Afterward, those who have feelings of isolation or comfort are more likely to consume comfort foods, said three, and they found that they were not eating well.
"We're working with the assumption that consumers are comfortable when they feel insulated because it reminds them of the strong relationships they have had, and that can alleviate that isolation," said Three.
Think about all the happy and comforting memories. Maybe your family is going to be happy with a trip to the ice cream shop, or maybe your mom or dad used to blast the day with macaroni and cheese. When you're feeling anxious today, eating one of those foods is an instant connection to that soothing time.
Here's how experts suggest you control emotional eating.
All of the experts say that we are OK in moderation. But when this behavior becomes a habit, it can be both physically and emotionally – physically, because of the regular consumption (and perhaps overconsumption) of foods that are not so healthy, and emotionally, because Albers noted, eating to avoid facing feelings is like putting a "Bandaid on a broken arm."
So how do we separate our emotions from eating? To start with, we have to remember food's true purpose – to nourish us. In fact, Koenig suggests that the term "comfort food" could be part of the problem.
"Misleading misnomer if there ever was one, comfort is not something we want to keep associating with food," Koenig said. "We want to file food in our brains under nourishment and occasional pleasure. We want to seek comfort through friends, doing things for ourselves and engaging in healthy activities that reduce internal distress. "
"As soon as you start looking for food, stop," Allen advised. "Think, 'Am I hungry? Do I need food in my stomach, or is one of my triggers going off? What do I need right now?
Both Albers and Koenig said that we should ask ourselves if we're actually hungry for food or if we need some other action to treat what we're feeling. Allen suggests journaling, even if it's just quickly jotting down what you're eating when and what to eat, when you eat it and why. Koenig recommends thinking of a flow chart: I am hungry – yes or no? What do I want to eat? Am I not hungry? What I am feeling? If you're grieving, think of constructive ways to sit with that grievance. If you're angry or hurt by someone, go talk to that person.
Albers and Koenig also pinpoint the concept of mindful eating. Eating should be its own activity. Instead of mood-driven consumption, we should be able to solve their problems Their own. What good is your most delicious treat if you're so emotionally distracted that you're just eating it and eating it at the point where you can not get away from it, and you've ignored the signs of fullness to the point of discomfort ? When we eat, the goal is to sit down and really experience that meal and its flavors, and be aware of when we're full.
One important thing to remember if you're trying to be curbing emotional eating is not to go cold turkey: Do not give up on every single food do think about other forms of comfort and reward.
"When you tell yourself you can not have something, then you want that thing," Allen said. "If you say you can not have chocolate, you think of chocolate."
The risk of being too heavy on one's own life is increased by stress, longing, shame and guilt, all of which can only lead to a vicious cycle. We can enjoy our cookies every day, but we should try to eat them for the pleasure of eating a cookie and not a form of self-therapy.