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T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
Emotional Eating Is a Bad Thing, Right?

For the majority of us, our first emotional bond is with our mother as we nurse. Mommy’s chest = food = love. As we continue to grow, food becomes a huge part of our social activities. Friends and family unite around big feasts prepared for special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Super Bowl, Easter, etc. These gatherings are often filled with fun and joyful times spent with our loved ones. Through food, we create strong bonds and lasting memories. Comfort foods reminds us of home, of growing up and enjoying the foods we love with the people we love.

Essentially, humans are emotional eaters

But the term emotional eating, has a negative ring to it. It’s associated with people who use food as a form of drug or antidepressant to numb their troubles. But like all drugs, as soon as the effect wears off people need another dose in order to feel better again. In the case of food, more and more translates into weight and health problems.

Nevertheless, we are all emotional eaters even if we don’t have weight issues. We all have a weakness or two. Mine are, kettle chips and pie, strawberry and rhubarb pie to be precise. It sometimes takes what feels like a supernatural effort for me not to eat the whole bag of chips or the whole damn pie. When I take the first bite I always go down memory lane and suddenly I have the joy of being a kid again and in my grandmother’s kitchen.

But make no mistake the feelings and emotions connected to the foods we love can get us into trouble. Using food as an emotional comfort is a vicious cycle that millions struggle with.

There is plenty of advice and programs out there for people who have a hard time controlling themselves around food. The two major ones are, the scare tactics: keep eating this way and you’ll die soon, who will take care of your family? And the motivation tactics: get fit and exercise, be strong and fight the cravings, you can do it! Whatever method used, for it to be successful, it’s essential to know and accept we’re emotional eaters because it’s part of human nature, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Don’t try to fight or forget about your pleasurable food memories. Instead make new connections.

If you want to eat the “right foods” and enjoy them, the key is to create good memories around them. Engage in something fun and pleasurable like going on a picnic with friends and family. Go out to the ocean with your partner and enjoy sliced watermelon and celery sticks as you watch the waves crash on the beach. The sweet and salty combination is kind of cool. Watch a movie at home with the kids and enjoy a large bowl of yam fries (recipe inside Bravo Express volume 1). Make healthy foods part of the same holidays you enjoy so much. The idea is to attach happy and enjoyable emotions with the new foods. Thus eating can be healthy and emotional. If you can achieve this, your attachments to the old comfort food won’t disappear, but you’ll have made emotional bonds with the healthy foods as well.

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