How Sugar and Fat Feed Emotional Eating
Emotional eating is dictated by feelings. If or when emotions balloon large enough, eating acts as some sort of comfort to deflate negative emotions, including anger, stress, fear, sadness, loneliness, and even boredom. But is emotional eating all in your head?
All in Your Head?
Whether life-altering events or situations dealt with on a life basis, such emotions can bombard the brain in an unpleasant fashion. Though individuals deal with stress and emotions in a variety of ways, some take to food. The chosen food triggers dopamine production, which in turn activates the reward and pleasure centers. If such foods continue to trigger the reward centers, efficient hunger and satiety cues may become less dominant. With lessened intuition regarding satiety, the mind starts to crave the food(s) not only in small amounts, but mostly in excess.
To strengthen the complexity of emotional eating and food intake, chosen "comfort foods" tend to be rich in sugar and fat. If the reward center starts to take over, sugar and fat can essentially feed emotional eating. Additionally, a paralleled phenomenon continues to rise: sugar addiction and the overconsumption of sugar-filled products - with sugar being no stranger in the food supply, it further strengthens the desire and drive for products rich in sugar.
Though links between the brain and foods have been previously (and continue to be) examined, newly discovered research further supports sugar can compromise mental health. Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the results suggest sugar and starch may even increase the likelihood of depression. More specifically, women who consumed
higher glycemic index (GI) foods had a higher risk of developing depression while women who consumed more dairy, fiber, and non-juiced fruits and veggies had a lower risk.
Is Your Stomach Emotional Too?
The stomach certainly plays a role in emotional eating, specifically tied to an associated hormone known as ghrelin. Ghrelin is an appetite stimulant and in normal conditions, starts to rise leading up to meals and is suppressed during mealtimes. But interesting research suggests emotional eaters have prolonged levels of ghrelin, indicating they may have an extended signal or green light to eat. As mentioned, under normal conditions, ghrelin starts to lessen during mealtime. With a prolonged urge to eat and compromised natural decline while consuming food, the opportunity to overeat is ultimately heightened.
Divide and Conquer?
Although conquering emotional eating can be a tough task, it is not impossible. With tips and advices, the high intakes of comforting sugar and fat can be lessened once and for all:
• Good Mood Foods
Consuming innutritious, comfort foods may be gratifying in that emotional moment. However, most good mood foods are filled with nutrients and beneficial in the long run, all while providing almost immediate effects. For instance, foods loaded with antioxidants may trigger calming effects while omega-3 fatty acids may also improve mood and boost energy levels. All-in-all, a healthful, balanced diet has the ultimate effect on a good mood.
Food should not always be the first mode of self-soothing, as stress-relief can further alleviate strong emotions. Stress-relieving techniques vary and ultimately depend on the individual's preference. Common practices include yoga and meditation, hiking in nature, dancing, listening to music, and any form of exercise.
• Seeking Treatment
Emotional eating can not only lead to obesity, but may be mentally damaging. Importantly, seeking out professional treatment may be necessary, especially if the emotions stem from a darker place. Further exploring the underlying causes of stress may lessen or diminish the urge to emotional eat. Seeking out treatment is not shameful, as it is a courageous act of self-help and self-love!