I’d Die For a Hot Fudge Sundae – Evolution and Emotional Eating

May 14, 2007 by  
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By Larina Kase

“I’d Die For a Hot-Fudge Sundae” Evolution and Emotional Eating By Dr. Larina Kase

I crave sugary foods when I am stressed. I like salty foods when I am tired or when I am bored. I eat comfort foods like pasta when I am down. Are you like me? Do you eat based on how you feel?

Many people eat in response to particular emotions. It is human nature really. Think about it, this type of eating behavior has survived throughout evolution for a reason.

Eating used to be associated with survival. Only the fittest (i.e., strongest, most nourished) survive. So over time we have developed a connection between eating and our very survival. Eating has become a protective mechanism.

Now we live in a time of abundance when many of us are surrounded by food options every day, many of which are fast food or unhealthy food. The threat of starvation for most of us is slim. Our associations with food and eating, however, remain similar. Like many other evolutionary based associations (think of fears of snakes, spiders, and heights), the connections remain, even though there are certainly more dangerous things in our environments these days.

While the connection between food and survival remains, the difference is that we become more discriminating about food. We feel like we need certain foods at certain times.

Upsetting emotions like depression, anxiety or fear, stress, and boredom can trigger the desire to “save” ourselves from threat by eating. Back in time, the threat was starving to death, and now the emotions themselves embody the perception of threat.

With depression, the threat is a dismal or hopeless future. With anxiety and fear, the threat is imminent danger of harm or humiliation. With stress, the threat is being overwhelmed and not being able to function effectively. Finally, with boredom, the threat is the absence of anything fulfilling or enjoyable.

So, we want to help ourselves survive the threat. We do so by craving and eating certain foods.

“I would die for a double fudge brownie”

“I need some French fries right now.”

“I cannot go on without some chocolate.”

Ever said any of these things? Even though you may have said them in jest, there is likely to have been a grain of seriousness in them. Your brain has perceived some sort of threat in your life and has responded by saying “eat now”.

Ironically, the food you would “die for” is likely to actually make you die sooner. We rarely crave carrot sticks- instead we crave a piece of aptly named “death by chocolate” cake.

Why do we crave certain foods along with certain emotions?

There are primarily two reasons: First, these foods are typically inherently rewarding or enjoyable in the short term. This is obvious, right? They taste good.

Second, we learn to associate cravings with emotions over time. We learn based on the responses our behaviors get. For instance, if I feel stressed and crave some cookies and I eat the cookies and then feel better (at least initially), what have I learned? To associate relieving stress with eating cookies.

So what do you do next time you think, “I would kill for a piece of pizza”? Consider whether there is something else threatening to you, such as a negative emotion. Then figure out what you typically crave along with that emotion.

Then do not eat that food that you are craving so you do not further your association of relieving the negative emotion with eating the particular food. Instead try something more helpful, like going for a walk to create a new association. Pretty soon you’ll be saying “I live for a great walk” rather than, “I would die for a cheeseburger.”

Dr. Larina Kase is the President STRENGTH Weight Loss & Wellness. She has helped dozens of clients overcome emotional eating and keep weight off for the long term. Her work in these areas has been featured on The Jane Pauley Show and in SELF and Shape. Get more resources and an e-course revealing her STRENGTH formula at: www.strengthweightloss.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com/?expert=Larina_Kase

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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