Does Food Really Make You Happy?

Does Food Really Make You Happy?

We are all trained at a very early age about the connection between food and comfort. The “Food is Love” concept is continually reinforced throughout our lives: We are offered candy for a scraped knee, we celebrate birthdays with cake, holidays with cookies and visiting home or a social event always seem to be associated with baked goods of some sort. Food is also prevalent at so many of our favorite activities, like watching a movie or a baseball game. We rely on meals for their social aspects, such as spending time with family and friends. By the time we are adults, we learn that food makes us feel better. So if we don’t like how we are feeling, we eat.

“Food is the No. 1 mood-altering substance used in the United States,” says Marilyn Migliore, R.D. and author of The Hunger Within. “That’s because at the moment, food gives you something pleasurable to focus on instead of the problems that you are facing in your daily life.”

Feeling lonely or bored? Eating gives you something to do. Stressed or angry? Eat and you’ll surely relax! Feel happy? Celebrate with dessert!

Although we know that exercise relieves stress and anxiety, eating is easier and provides instant gratification. Emotional eating is defined by using food to avoid feelings of sadness, stress, anxiety, loneliness, anger, body dissatisfaction, etc. Unfortunately, it’s not broccoli that you crave when you’re feeling and emotional need, it’s fat and sugar.

Emotional eating can keep you from reaching your weight goals and leave you feeling like a failure. An emotional eater may even turn to destructive behavior, such as fasting or purging (anorexia and bulimia) to try to offset the extra calories. The way to break the cycle is to start by learning when you’re eating for hunger or when you are eating based on emotions. You can remove a lot of the guesswork by planning ahead. Schedule three regular meals a day with a snack late morning and midafternoon. Don’t eat in between those times, not even a grape!

When you take care of your body by building a structure of nourishing food into your day, you’re less likely to succumb to an emotional eating episode. Keeping a food journal is another way to accept more accountability for what you eat. You can note the foods that you turn to and try to come up with alternate choices to help you with control. Look for a pattern when you seem to sabotage your diet goals so you can attempt to correct it.

Exercises is always important because when you are putting effort taking care of yourself, you are less likely to undermine your efforts by eating poorly. Taking care of yourself physically by staying active and making good choices at mealtime will help you stave off the emotional food rollercoaster.

Despite these steps, we all still overdo it from time to time. But rather than beat yourself up afterward, just resolve to do better next time. As briefly mentioned above, exercise plays an important role in helping you stay on track when you are attempting to take on a healthier lifestyle through proper nutrition. When you are involved in a regular exercise program, such as meeting regularly with a personal trainer, you are more likely to stay on track with better food choices. It’s easier to avoid that chocolate chip cookie if you just pushed yourself through three sets of lunges! As we mentioned in the last article, and the motto that we share with our clients on a daily basis “Health = Happiness.”

If we were to break that motto down one step further, we would tell you that health = lifestyle. In order to have total health, you have to take it on as a lifestyle and incorporate into how you think, how you eat, how you exercise and how you feel about yourself. Health never tasted so good.

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