Why Does Eating Feel Soothing
If you have a peaceful and soothing feeling after eating fatty foods, there is good news. This is a natural reaction, and not necessarily an inability on your part to stick to your diet. But exactly why does eating food feel so soothing sometimes? And when you are stressed out, why does a dose of chocolate or a bowl of ice cream make you feel better? The answer may surprise you.
Dr Lukas Van Oudenhove works at the University of Leuven, in Belgium. He led a team of scientists in a research project to explore the emotional reaction that human beings have to eating fat. Twelve healthy volunteers had their brain waves monitored as they were shown both sad and neutral images, and as they listened to neutral and sad music.
Those test subjects then were given either fatty acids or saline. The volunteers were not told which of these two chemicals they were receiving. When showed sad images or played emotionally dreary music, those who consumed fatty acids were shown to be 50% happier and upbeat than those who received saline.
And those findings mirror the evidence found in countless studies of the relationship between food and mood. There is a definite link. Eating is usually accompanied by some type of aroma. The smell of green apples can actually help alleviate headaches, because it works on your brain's pleasure and pain receptors.
Overcome Your Emotions
Eating coconut actually overcomes and calms down your "fight or flight" response, and lowers your heart rate. This soothing feeling is also delivered by peppermint, which can be added to your foods to help limit your feelings of hunger as well. And while much processed chocolate packed into candy bars and other sweets is not healthy for you, naturally unprocessed dark chocolate reduces your levels of cortisol. That is the hormone most directly linked with causing emotional stress, so you feel less anxious and more at ease with just a small bite of chocolate.
Unfortunately, the way your brain responds to fatty foods, which we mentioned earlier, is also triggered when you eat an abundance of carbohydrates or starches. Your system slows down, you feel relaxed and content, and you may even want to take a nap. There are foods which make you feel calm and peaceful without any negative consequences, like green apples and coconut. Just be careful to limit the amount of fats, starches and carbohydrates you eat in your diet, because these "feel good" foods can lead to obesity, heart problems and other health risks.
Why Stress Can Lead to Emotional Eating
Stress can lead to overeating due to the powerful soothing effect that some foods have. Stress releases hormones and chemicals in your body that practically beg you to eat high-fat and sugar-filled comfort foods. These foods do not deliver all of the nutrients and minerals your body requires, so you continue to eat in an attempt to give your body what it needs.
Your brain has a natural tendency to release "feel good" hormones when fat, sugary and salt filled foods are eaten. So even though you are not getting all of the nutritional goodness you need, you eat more and more of these foods rich in carbohydrates and calories, because they create an emotional response which make you feel good. An overeating cycle begins, which can quickly lead to overweight and the health problems which accompany it.
Emotional Eating – How to Avoid It
In February of 2012 the Harvard Mental Health Letter explained just how their research uncovered the link behind stress and overeating. "Emotional eating" is a term used to define how stress increases appetite. And the data revealed in this research shows that short term stress actually suppresses and overcomes appetite.
This is because your brain immediately begins producing a corticotropin-releasing hormone that quickly works to make you feel full and satisfied. However, continued stress actually aggravates your adrenal glands. These are located just above your kidneys, and they release the stress super-villain cortisol. Cortisol naturally increases your appetite. And once you successfully get over a particularly emotional episode, cortisol production drops and your hunger levels return to normal.
But in some people, your stress response can be left in the "on" position. Your cortisol levels stay elevated and you continue to eat to satisfy artificial hunger. So, the question remains, how can you relieve the emotions which leads to overeating and the health problems which accompany it? Take the following simple steps to immediately begin relieving stress in your life.
Are You Addicted to Junk Food?
Are you addicted to junk food? No? Then let's try a little experiment. Double bacon cheeseburger ... pepperoni pizza with extra cheese ... doughnuts ... ice cream ...
extra-large order of french fries … potato chips, soda, candy bars. If just reading that list of nutritionally negative foods got your mouth watering and had you grabbing the car keys for a quick eating fix, you might be addicted to junk food and you need to overcome these urges.
Defining Junk Food – What Is It Really?
Segen's Medical Dictionary defines "junk food" as any food which is extremely low in essential nutrients, while also high in calories, sodium, salt, saturated fats and/or carbohydrates. And the American Heritage Medical Dictionary simply defines junk food as, "Any of various prepackaged snack foods high in calories but low in nutritional value."
So if your favorite foods go to work on your body in a negative manner and have very little to no redeeming nutritional value, and you simply cannot say no when the urge to consume them calls, you could have a junk food addiction problem. Unfortunately, the consequences can negatively impact your life and your emotional health as powerfully as drug and alcohol addiction.
One of the problems is that you are not alone in your craving. It has become socially acceptable in all of the modern societies around the world to overeat, especially the wrong foods. HealthyAmericans.org reports that in the United States alone, 13 states could have an adult obesity rate above 60% by the year 2030, with all 50 states above a 44% obesity level.
Junk Food Addiction Can Lead to Serious Health Problems
But carrying around too much extra weight is not the only problem. Junk food addiction leads to higher insurance costs for everyone, and dramatically increased risks of contracting heart disease, stroke, hypertension, arthritis and deadly Type II Diabetes. All because you cannot say no to eating the fast food drive-through window or pre-packaged candy bars and sweets that are beckoning to you in the checkout line.
One way to identify if you truly are addicted to junk food is to keep a food journal. Be extremely honest, and write down every calorie, carbohydrate, saturated fat level and all the other food label information on everything you consume. When you see that your habits are driving you towards foods with very little nutritional value that are chock full of unhealthy and possibly even deadly ingredients, it is time to take a closer look at your emotional relationship with food.
How to Avoid Emotional Eating
To help overcome emotional eating, avoid putting yourself in stressful situations.
Keeping a food & mood diary will help you determine situations that cause you to stress eat. Exercising daily helps you to improve your mood & reduce the risk of worry eating. There's a huge difference between emotional hunger & physical hunger. Learn the difference to find out if your emotional eating.
Did you know that people tend to eat their comfort foods when they want to reward themselves? Beware of cheat days! Don't reward yourself for a week of working out by reaching for the pint of ice cream. That reinforces the cycle of emotional eating. Boredom triggers emotional eating overcome the desire. Keep yourself busy moving around & you'll burn calories instead of consuming them.
Think twice before grabbing a bag of potato chips. You're bored and it's better to start walking to keep yourself from doing so. One of the keys to losing weight is recognizing when you are satisfying emotional or physical hunger. To lose weight, you must resist the urge to eat your feelings. Don’t stock junk foods & sweets in your pantry if you want to lose weight. Otherwise, you'll munch on this when the craving hits you.
Drink black tea when you're stressed. It lowers the cortisol levels that makes you crave food after an emotional situation. Instead of rewarding yourself with sweets on cheat days, treat yourself to a massage & lower your stress hormones in the process. If the craving to eat choco chip cookies or potato chips hit you in the middle of the night and you find it difficult to overcome them, take deep breaths & force yourself to relax.
Emotional Free Eating
When trying to lose weight, put yourself in situations that does not lead to boredom or stress so you can avoid emotional consumption. Stock on fruits and vegetables so that you have something healthy to eat when the emotional hunger hits you. Don't binge on cheat days! This will undermine your weight loss efforts & reinforce emotional eating. Craving for pizza? Choose a whole grain pizza crust topped with veggies so you don't stray too much from your diet.
People eat cookies when depressed. Keep your hand out of the cookie jar by brewing a cup of tea or decaf coffee. Don't try to deprive yourself when trying to lose weight. It will only lead to reward- and binge-eating on cheat days. If you have an episode of emotional eating, don't stress yourself. It will only lead to more stress eating. Proceed with the diet.
Instead of snacking when you're not physically hungry, distract yourself with a physical activity or drink water. A bubble bath is a good alternative to stress eating. It relaxes you without adding inches to your waistline.Use apps like My Diet Coach to help you get through emotional eating & stay focused on your weight loss goals. If you must satisfy a craving, look for healthier option, e.g. dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.