How Our Feelings Influence What We Eat

Food Mood: How Our Feelings Influence What We Eat April 16, 2018

Ever yearned for a sugary treat after a particularly bad day? So have we! And what a majority of us have yet to discover is that each of our emotions necessitates a distinct craving. That being said, do not fall under the common misconception that what our body craves is essentially what it happens to need, for that’s not always the case. Nonetheless, if you’re somewhat hopeless at introspection and are often at a loss as to how to decipher your emotions, you could utilize your cravings as a means to diagnose how you feel! Rather intriguing, isn’t it? Well, here’s the lowdown on different emotions and the food cravings they happen to be associated with!

When We’re Happy: We Eat Healthy

When We’re Happy We Eat Healthy


According to researchers at the Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab, when we’re feeling happy or particularly optimistic, we actually tend to make healthier dietary choices (1). Experts hypothesize that this may stem from the fact that when someone is feeling positive mentally and emotionally, it simply becomes less challenging for them to conceptualize all the many benefits of healthy eating that one stands to gain in the long run. Hence, an optimistic soul is less likely to make reckless or ‘rash’ choices such as consuming the dreaded sugar, which a long-term excess of has been proven to have adverse effects on our health.

Additionally, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, people tend to opt for healthier foods and drinks only if they think their positive mood or happiness will last for a while (2). On the other hand, if they believe their good spirit is transient, they will actually consume more comfort foods in order to hold on to their positive mood.

When We’re Blue: Junk Food To The Rescue

When We’re Blue Junk Food To The Rescue


This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise, we’ve all been there after all. When we’re particularly down or feeling low, we tend to opt for more instantly gratifying snacks and meals, such as junk food. And experts say the reason is simple: When someone is emotionally uncomfortable, they have a tougher time thinking objectively about all the long-term benefits healthy food can provide for our body. Hence, we opt for taste over fitness. Additionally, the intensity of our blues demands instant fixes. For example, when we’re down, a majority of us reach for a bar of chocolate as it has a wonderful track record for instant satisfaction.

When We’re Unhappy: We Eat More

 When We’re Unhappy We Eat More


As we discussed above, an unhappy state of mind can render us unable to think beyond our present gloominess or anger, which, in turn, hinders our ability to not only rationally process what we eat but also how much we eat. This subsequently can lead to horrible, guilt-riddled episodes of overeating or even binge eating. In fact, according to a study conducted by Cornell University, those who watched a sad film were found to eat 38% more popcorn as compared to groups who consumed popcorn while watching happy films (3).

When We’re Very Happy: Potential To Overeat

When We’re Very Happy Potential To Overeat


That’s right! We also have the potential to eat too much when we happen to be particularly joyful. And this, according to experts, may stem from our culture of wanting to celebrate happiness. Whether it’s a wedding, birthday or holiday, we all tend to eat more calorie-rich foods, and we often find ourselves consuming these in greater quantities than we intend to. Since we’ve been conditioned to celebrate milestones with food, most us tend to associate eating with being happy, which has caused some of us to use even everyday accomplishments as an excuse to overindulge! Interestingly, according to one study, celebratory eating is more commonly exhibited by men than women (4).

Specific Emotions: Specific Flavors And Textures

Specific Emotions Specific Flavors And Textures


According to Denver-based weight loss specialist, Dr. Lisa Spangle, the different types of flavors and textures that we crave in our food can also be traced back to very specific emotions (5). For example, if you’ve been yearning for a crunchy snack – something that you could smash and grind with your teeth – then your urge is probably a product of frustration, anger or sadness, which Dr. Spangle refers to being as “head hungry.” On the other hand, if you’re craving comfort food items, such as pasta, cinnamon rolls or ice cream, then your most probably “heart hungry,” says Dr. Spangle. Which basically means that you’re plagued with “empty” emotions like depression, boredom or loneliness. 

Our mind and our palate are even more connected than we’d think. But always remember, just because you’re craving a decadent gallon of creamy chocolate ice or a slice of spicy pizza full of cheesy goodness, that doesn’t necessarily mean what your body wants is what it needs. So, the next time you feel your taste buds tingling, ask yourself – why do I want to eat this? Hopefully, this food mood guide will help you unravel your true motivations. Stay healthy!

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Profile photo of Chandrama Deshmukh
Profile photo of Chandrama Deshmukh

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