We have all medicated our moods with chocolate or pizza at some point in our lives. While experts know that certain meals soothe us, the exact reasons remain a bit of a mystery. New research, however, sheds light on the hows and whys of emotional eating. Researchers found that even without seeing, smelling, or tasting food, study participants were better at battling negative emotions with saturated fat in their bellies rather than saline solution. High levels of saturated fat are found in hard-to-resist comfort foods like ice cream and bacon.
Although the study was small, the results illustrate that the comfort you derive from comfort food isn't all in your head; there's a physiological component too — independent of our sensory experience or emotional attachment to the food. The exact mechanism is unclear, but researchers believe saturated fat triggers a release of stomach hormones that positively stimulates the brain.
We know that high levels of saturated fat are not good for the body, and while a bit of mac-n-cheese might soothe you in the short term, it's good to find other means of calming your nerves and buoying your spirit. Exercising outside can boost your mood, but what happens when you find yourself feeling down at midnight? Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers, author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, suggests tuning into your senses rather than reaching for the Doritos. Focusing on what you hear, see, and smell, in a kind of sensory medication, can help you side step an emotional food craving.
There must be countless ways to soothe yourself without food. How do you calm your stressed nerves or fend off negative emotions that don't involve raiding the fridge? Share your methods below, because we can all use new ways to avoid using food for comfort.
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