Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Complex Emotional States and Perceptions Drive Healthy-Unhealthy Choices

If you're sad you're more likely to choose unhealthy foods compared to when feeling happy (1) ; that is unless of course you're feeling happy about the present or past.  If you're feeling happy about the present or past you're more likely to make the unhealthy choice, compared to having positive hopeful feelings about your future, in which case you're more likely to make a healthy choice. (2)

If only it were that simple.  If food is advertised as being organic or some other health inspiring description we're more likely to believe the positive suggestion and perceive we can and should, eat more of the food, regardless of whether it is factually healthy or not. (3) In fact you may actually perceive being more hungry later after having consumed food you were told was healthy, but if you freely choose to eat healthy you will feel satisfied and not feel more hungry later. (4)

Clenching your fists, grit your teeth, and flex your muscles!  A new study suggests doing so may stimulate a more potent burst of will power allowing one to overcome a food temptation or cope with an unpleasant situation. (5)

Umm.. can't I just eat and not worry about all this academic mumbo-jumbo? Of course!  Err.. if you're emotionally calibrated and aware of how your emotions drive food decisions, otherwise you may blindly eat, and eat, and eat..

Obviously if we eat too much we'll gain fat.  Clearly if we keep this up we put ourselves at significant risk of becoming unhealthy.  Common sense right?

So.. why is our population becoming more overweight every year?  Where is the application of this common sense?

Researchers are showing that despite the obvious negative effects of overeating most people feel compelled to overeat most of the time.  We have to move beyond talking about the latest diet and exercise scheme and become more aware of our habits, our social norms (overeating is celebrated), environmental cues, and how our emotions and sense of reward, risk, and harm affect our healthy, or unhealthy decisions.

Let's stop being eating automatons and start feeling good about mindful, healthy choices.

(1) Food-mood Connection: The Sad Are Twice As Likely To Eat Comfort Food


(3) Health halo effect: Don't judge a food by its organic label

(4) JSTOR: The Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 37, No. 3 (October 2010), pp. 357-367

(5) JSTOR: The Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 37, No. 6 (April 2011), pp. 1046-1064

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