Do you find that when you’re feeling down, you reach for comfort food – something fatty or sweet like sticky buns, chocolate, desserts? And, what’s worse, you find yourself eating far too much, sometimes even bingeing? Researchers have found that how people feel does indeed affect whether they choose unhealthy comfort food or the healthier options.
You can use this information to help you manage what you eat, and become more successful in maintaining a healthy weight.
When you eat sugary or fatty food, there’s a biochemical effect on your brain, producing more happy neurotransmitters. Researchers found that people will actually eat to affect their mood: If you’re feeling unhappy, comfort food will actually help you feel better; if you’re already happy you’re likely to deliberately seek out healthier food choices, in order to maintain your good feelings about yourself.
To make things even more complex, its easier to eat too much of the comfort food when you’re feeling down. The guilt that follows overeating can make you feel even worse!
But there are ways to help manage your food intake when you’re feeling down:
1. Measure out your portion so you know exactly how much you’re eating. Choose a smaller portion than what you think you’ll need to eat to feel better. Then walk away from the kitchen to enjoy it while totally focused on the food and how it tastes. (i.e don’t eat comfort food while watching TV, or standing in the kitchen at the fridge door – that’s unconscious eating).
2. Know what’s in that food. Being aware of the calorie, fat and sugar content of your comfort food actually reduces how much you’ll eat. Read the nutritional label. Keeping a food diary of what you eat and your mood can be an effective tool.
3. Be aware of your tendency to eat more when you’re in a sad mood. Just being aware of your mood can help you make different choices about how you’ll deal with it.
So, feeling down? Wanting comfort food? Measure out your portion of what you want, read the label, focus on the enjoyable food while you’re eating it. Then as soon as you’re finished that portion, change your activity: Going for a walk is one of the best, as the physical activity will also help improve your mood.