Common wisdom has it that emotional eaters tend to overeat when trying to cope with negative experiences. How about when they are happy?
Be Happy And All Is Good?
This has been a given in psychological explanations of obesity: some people try to sooth themselves by eating, as this self-sustaining activity is positively rewarded by the body.
I so subscribed to that as well, without ever giving much thought to what happens to these people when they are happy.
Happy, I assumed, meant that that need would be taken away. Make them happy and you can successfully get them onto a weight management program.
I’m So Happy, Pass On The Chips!
Not so fast, some Dutch researchers now say. They had 86 college students fill out mood questionnaires before and after showing them movie clips designed to make their moods better, worse, or have it stay the same. After the clips were shown, they were offered ketchup-flavored or salty potato chips, chocolates, and a glass of water. Then, for 15 minutes and while alone with the food, the students were asked to filled out more questionnaires.
And here comes the rub: the students who could be classified as “emotional eaters” and had watched the happy movie clip, ate around 100 more calories than the “emotionals” who had watched the sad or neutral clip. The non-emotional eaters weren’t influenced by any of the clips – they ate the same number of calories no matter what they were shown.
This was a small experiment, done in a laboratory and, from what I read, not every variable was fully controlled (eg., measuring how hungry these students were), so some caution should be exercised when looking at it. It does, however, give some food for thought about how emotional eaters react to positive experiences.
How is or was that for you? Do / did you eat more when you are or were happy? When I think back to the time when I was overweight, I actually have a hard time classifying how I ate when I felt good. Did feeling carefree make me care less about the amounts I ate or did I use food as an additional mood booster? I do think that sometimes when my mood wasn’t the best, I may have eaten more.
Picture courtesy of Sam Howzit.