Emotional hunger or pleasure?  What is the difference

Emotional hunger or pleasure? What is the difference

For many, the food it ranks among the greatest pleasures of 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! Researchers now point out that in addition to making mealtime enjoyable, the feeling of enjoying what you eat “hides” important benefits for the health. Among other things, scientific data shows that it contributes to a fluid digestion, improves our relationship to food and combats eating disorders.

Scientists claim that in some cases the enjoyment derived from food is just as important as the contents of the plate and they characterize it as an integral part of a healthy diet.

The Difference Between Emotional Overeating and Pleasure Eating

Scientists have studied for many years the mechanisms that link eating and pleasure and maintain that pleasure is both gustatory and cerebral. “Enjoyment of all kinds, including that derived from food, leads to liberation dopamine in the brain,” says nutritionist Aleta Storch. “Dopamine is a hormone that activates reward pathways in the brain, promoting feelings of happiness, calm, motivation, and focus,” he adds.

Emotional eating equates to eating as a method of dealing with and dealing with difficult emotions such as stress, anger, or sadness, which often leads to thoughtless 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 you choose each of these practices. “Often, eating emotionally equates to a lack of connection. In contrast, when you eat something you enjoy, there is a real connection and conscious experience of the food you consume,” says Anzlovar.

The way to tell if you’re eating emotional or just pleasurable foods is to ask yourself: How do you feel after you eat?

Mindfully savoring your food won’t 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 an enjoyable, no-regrets food experience, the nervous system enters a state of rest and digestion, allowing us to fully break down and utilize the nutrients from the foods we eat.”

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

“There’s a belief that ‘healthy’ foods should be fat-free, but that’s not true,” says registered 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

  • It strengthens the social bond

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

  • It offers physical and emotional relief

How many times was hot soup enough to make you feel better when you got sick? Or did a delicious sweetness comfort 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 tough 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.”

  • It’s changing the food culture

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

  • It connects us to cultural heritage

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

Pleasure and healthy food: the perfect combination

Few things in daily life provide as much pleasure as food, which nourishes the body and soothes the mind. “When making a meal or snack, think about how you could make it tastier,” suggests Storch. “Sometimes throwing a little cheese on a salad, for example, can take a dining experience to another level.” Finally, when you are done eating, ask yourself: did you enjoy it?

Learn more:

Food: When you lose control and eat more

Do you eat standing up? How much food harms the foot

Are you picky with food? How Food Color Affects Your Appetite

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