Emotional hunger or pleasure? What is the difference

By | April 30, 2023

For many, the food It is among the greatest pleasures in life. And not without reason, since science has decided that man is designed to derive pleasure from food, and most of us know this without the help of science! The researchers now point out that in addition to making mealtime a pleasurable process, the feeling of enjoying what you eat “hides” important benefits for the body. health. Among other things, scientific data shows that it contributes to smooth digestion, improves our relationship with food and combats eating disorders.

Scientists argue that, in some cases, the enjoyment derived from food is as important as the content of the plate and characterize it as an integral part of a healthy diet.

The difference between emotional overeating and enjoying food

Scientists have been studying the mechanisms linking food and pleasure for many years and argue that pleasure is both gustatory and cerebral. “Enjoyment of all kinds, including that derived from food, leads to liberation dopamine in the brain,” explains nutritionist Aleta Storch. “Dopamine is a hormone that activates reward pathways in the brain, promoting feelings of happiness, calm, motivation, and concentration,” she adds.

Emotional eating equates to eating as a method of managing and coping with difficult emotions such as stress, anger, or sadness, which often leads to mindless eating and creates an unhealthy relationship with food.

However, this habit is very different from the pleasure of eating, both in intention and in results.

Another important difference between the two is how you feel when choosing each of these practices. “Emotional eating often equates to a lack of connection. On the contrary, when you eat something that you like, there is a real connection and a conscious experience of the food you are consuming,” explains Anzlovar.

The way to know if you are eating emotional food or just pleasurable is to ask yourself: How do you feel after eating?

Consciously enjoying your food will not leave you with feelings of guilt or shame.

“When we enjoy the food we eat and stimulate dopamine, we digest and metabolize it more efficiently,” says Dr. Storch “When we have a pleasurable experience eating without guilt, the nervous system enters a state of rest and digestion , allowing us to fully break down and utilize the nutrients in the food we eat.”

A 2015 study, for example, linked the pleasure of eating with better nutrition overall. Other studies have highlighted the importance of taking pleasure from healthy foods to promote a nutritious and balanced diet.

“There’s a belief that ‘healthy’ food has to be fat-free, but that’s not true,” says dietitian Sarah Gold Anzlovar. “When we eat foods we like, satisfaction increases, which can improve diet quality and reduce the likelihood of overeating.”

The benefits of enjoying food

  • Enhances social connection.

What would a party or family gathering be without at least some food? According to a 2015 study, sharing food with others can further increase feelings of happiness.

  • Offers physical and emotional relief.

How many times was a hot soup enough to make you feel better when you got sick? Or a delicious sweet comforted you in a moment of intense sadness? These foods have a way of lifting the mood and calming the body. “Sometimes food brings relief at the end of a hard day, which many associate with negative emotional eating,” says Dr. Anzlovar. “But when we allow ourselves to connect with food and enjoy it, there are many benefits.”

  • Turn upside down food culture

Food culture advocates saying no to foods you like, especially if they are high in calories or fat. But if you don’t overindulge, eating foods you like can be beneficial. “When all foods are allowed, the body learns to trust that it will get what it needs,” says Dr. Storch. “Eating ‘guilty’ foods can help one feel more calm, confident, and free with food.”

  • Connects us with cultural heritage

Scientific research has shown that a sense of belonging is vital to mental health. Food plays an important role in this, as it is a key element of cultural identity. “Culture and tradition serve as a way to connect with others,” says Dr. Storch “Excluding foods that promote this connection can lead to disconnection and loneliness.”

Enjoyment and healthy eating: The perfect combination

Few things in daily life give as much pleasure as food, which nourishes the body and soothes the spirit. “When preparing a meal or snack, think about how you could make it tastier,” suggests Storch. “Sometimes putting a little cheese on a salad, for example, can take the eating experience to another level.” Finally, when you finish eating, ask yourself: Did you enjoy it?

Read more:

Food: When we lose control and eat more

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Are you difficult with food? How the color of dishes affects your appetite

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