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The Science of Emotional Eating

It’s strange isn’t it, how the pull of that chocolate bar after a stressful long day wins (with not much resistance!).

It turns out it’s actually not that strange; that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves as we are wired this way(!). Harvard Scientist Mark Andermann explains: “Even up until 200 years ago you were always going to be in a current or future state of near starvation… even if you saw food that was really high calorie; even if you’re not hungry; you should go after it, because there was always a scarcity”.

Now we are living in a different world, where many (but not all) of us in the western world have abundance. We can, and do make the choice to eat well ie. a wholefood diet low on refined carbs, and are aware of how good we feel when we stick to it.

Andermann also suggests that emotional eating can also be a habit. You can make bad food decisions particularly when you are feeling stressed or tired.

Put simply, the prefrontal cortex that regulates decisions is tired by the end of the day. In a similar way to sex or drugs, food activates reward neurons in our brains, but the reward is short lived. People with weight management issues often have an enhanced sensitivity to tasty foods which also happen to contain high calories.

The solution? Remove temptations from the cupboard. Find a healthy reward option! Take a step by step approach and don’t be too hard on yourself if you dig into that tub of ice-cream. Stay mindful, ensure you get a good sleep, and keep exercising!

This is our considered but light and brief introduction to the topic. For more information please check out:

Special Report: Holistic weight loss, Wellbeing magazine, Edition 183, 2019.