recognizing emotional eatingAnyone who has ever eaten a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting knows that emotional eating is not a new concept. Though most of us know the term and some present it incredibly well in prose (take a look at Bill Schubart’s Fat People or Portia De Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness), few of us have any clue about the science behind the reality. Until now.

New research suggests that fatty foods or ‘comfort foods’ may actually alter our brain’s response to sadness, literally soothing our psyche. The study examined the interaction between “nutrient-induced gut-brain signaling” (love that crazy science talk) and sadness. The sadness induced in the study was simulated musically and visually. The comfort food was induced intragastrically (not very comforting):

Subjects received an intragastric infusion of fatty acid solution or saline during neutral or sad emotion induction and rated sensations of hunger, fullness, and mood. We found an interaction between fatty acid infusion and emotion induction both in the behavioral readouts (hunger, mood) and at the level of neural activity in multiple pre-hypothesized regions of interest. Specifically, the behavioral and neural responses to sad emotion induction were attenuated by fatty acid infusion.

Read the report in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

‘Comfort Foods’ reduce neural responses to sad emotions. Apparently, eating fatty foods makes us less vulnerable to sad emotions. This is tough news for those of us thin-skinned emotional eaters. We need healthier ways to ameliorate unwelcome emotions.

Happily there are countless studies demonstrating that exercise is related to positive mental health. It relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety by releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. It can even give you a sense of accomplishment. And it can help you make friends – the relationship between friendship and psychological well-being is also well known.

The point is to get to a fitness class before you hit the spoon – or shortly after you forgive yourself for that Chunky Monkey. All Wellness has some great new options for fitness classes this fall. Check out the new fitness schedule: Power Pilates Mat (Mondays, Fridays and Sundays), Zumba (Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays), and Power Vinyasa Yoga (Thursdays).

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