Stop Emotional Eating

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Stop Emotional Eating

EMOTIONAL EATING: What You're Really Craving

If we all soothed ourselves with crudités and fresh fruit, it wouldn't be so bad. But we're grabbing candy, cookies, macaroni and cheese, and french fries—and the reason comes down to biology. It turns out your body is hard- wired to make you pass right by the salad bar and head straight for the bakery aisle instead. "When we eat carbohydrates high in sugar or fat [like a brownie or cinnamon roll], our body releases the brain chemical dopamine," says Karen R. Koenig, the author of The Food & Feelings Workbook. "It stimulates the brain's pleasure center, so you'll want to keep eating to repeat the experience again and again." And if you aren't after carbs, you're probably craving sugar and fat— overconsumption of which ups other brain chemicals linked to pleasure and euphoria, according to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. But while science shows why you crave certain types of food, the specific dishes you gravitate toward are often ones you associate with pleasurable memories. "Something fabulous was going on when you used to eat that food, and you want to replicate those happy times," says Roth. If you feasted on lasagna during fun meals as a child, for example, that's what you're apt to pile on your plate as an adult when you're looking to feel better. If your mom soothed you when you were upset with a big bowl of chocolate ice cream, a pint of Ben & Jerry's may very well be what you reach for when your job gets too stressful.

But you don't need to let biology and what happened to you as a child stand between you and a flat tummy. You can put a stop to your emotional eating patterns. The key is breaking up the automatic connection between food and mood, learning to identify when you're eating due to reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with your stomach, and retraining yourself to get pleasure from other things, like exercise and friendship.

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