The Truth Behind Emotional Eating

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

You’re stressed about the work you see piling up around you, so you grab a bag of chips and prepare to pull an all nighter. It has happened to the best of us, but what triggers a late-night junk food eating session, and how can you put a stop to it? 

The first way to cut the junk food habits is to acknowledge when the fall outs occur. If they tend to happen late at night, a study published by Brigham Young University may explain why. According to the study, the brain’s response to food is lower the later it is. This means that those chips you decided to have as a late-night snack because you had a stressful week will not seem super satisfying.

Travis Masterson lead author of the study explains what the research concludes, “It may not be as satisfying to eat at night so you eat more to try to get satisfied.”

Recognizing that food will not stimulate your brain in the same way and therefore will seem less satisfying can help you become self aware. You may think you are hungry, but step back, drink some water, or choose a healthier option — believe us your body will thank you. 

If you find yourself slipping at other times of the day, you may be eating less because you are hungry and more because you are stressed. 

diet, unhealthy food

Source: iStock

A recent study from Cornell University shows how people who are in high-stress situations or in a negative mood reach for junk rather than a healthy snack. The reason behind emotional eating comes from your body desiring immediate satisfaction rather than recognizing long-term goals and needs. 

While stress and negativity triggers the immediate concern of turning a frown upside down, happier emotions trigger long-term goals and overall satisfaction. 

How does this translate through food, you ask? Well, junk food is usually richer and results in immediate satisfaction. By creating pleasure through sweets and junk food, you are deciding to eat based on how you feel right then and there.

Reaching for food when you are in a positive mood, triggers the opposite. When you reach for a snack when you are happy, you usually prefer healthy foods because a positive mood puts weight on long term goals and healthiness. 

According to the study, “When making a choice between indulgent or healthy foods, a positive mood will result in healthier food choices due to greater consideration of long term or abstract goals.”

We know everyone needs to indulge in a guilty pleasure once in a while, but being aware of not only when you are eating, but also why you are eating, could prove to make a huge difference in your habits. 

Overall, both studies show that taking a step back from the kitchen, having a glass of water, and really contemplating why you are eating and what you are eating can make a huge difference in your overall diet and strategy. Self awareness is at the root of both studies and shows that sometimes eating healthy comes down to mind over matter.

More from Health & Fitness Cheat Sheet: