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Whether it is your Thanksgiving dinner, your grandmother’s famous casserole, or ice cream after a break up, we all have emotional memories that tie certain foods to feeling good.
This association between food and feeling good comes up for most of us every day! For example, lunch can serve as a much needed break in an otherwise mundane work day, and our brain learns to associate eating lunch with a sense of relief or even excitement. This type of eating is called emotional eating, and it is incredibly common. In fact, it is such a common phenomenon that researchers have looked at the science behind it.
When we feel stressed or have negative emotions, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. This hormone increases our cravings of sugary, fatty, salty foods, making it difficult to make healthy choices.
This is even further complicated by the fact that after we eat those sweet, savory, delicious foods, our brains release a chemical called dopamine that makes us feel pleasure, happiness, and joy. Our brain has created a vicious cycle of feel stress, crave unhealthy foods, eat unhealthy foods, and feel better.
Emotional eating can be problematic if you are trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss. Here are a few signs of emotional eating to watch out for:
Overcoming emotional eating is a process, much like changing any other habit. It takes time and practice. One strategy that can help is the AWARE formula:
These steps are easier said than done. If you need additional support or help with changing your eating habits, your bariatric support team is here for you! We are happy to help develop a plan that is individualized to fit your needs and find the best approach to make long-term, sustainable habits.
Learn what to expect after weight loss surgery. Visit our website to request an appointment, sign up for one of our free information sessions, or call today: 919-350-WELL (9355).
Dr. Jenna Ellison is a fellowship trained Health Psychologist with WakeMed. Her clinical interests include bariatrics, pain management, sleep, oncology, and physical rehabilitation.
Along with her clinical work, she has published research on psychosocial predictors of health. Dr. Ellison provides care through the biopsychosocial perspective with the goal of helping patients understand and address the connection between health and emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
3000 New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27610