End Emotional Eating

emotional_eatingEvery college student knows that as finals approach, it becomes oh-so-tempting to stock up on our favorite chips, sweets, and some sort of instant food that can be microwaved in three and a half minutes. We’re sleep-deprived, stressed, burnt out from putting the finishing touches on our final projects, and we want a hot fudge sundae. Like, now.

If you feel as though emotional eating might get the best of you during finals week, read on to get the facts and some simple ways you can try to avoid an eating binge.

Saturated fats DO make you happier. But probably not in the long run. A study in Belgium found that when participants had been given a solution of saturated fatty acids and were then exposed to sad music and images of sad faces, they remained in a better mood than participants who had not been given the solution.

Evolution has made eating a rewarding activity for us, which is why we find comfort in fatty foods when we are upset. However, if you know your indulgences will give you a guilty feeling the next day, The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 7% of daily calories. That’s about 16 grams of saturated fats if you consume 2,000 calories a day.

Try substituting fatty foods that you crave with similar ones with less saturated fat. For example, try pretzels instead of potato chips, or sherbet or fat-free frozen yogurt instead of ice cream.

Sleep deprivation makes you crave unhealthy foods. A study at Columbia University found that when subjects were sleep-deprived, seeing pictures of unhealthy foods activated reward centers in their brains. These reward centers were less active when the subjects were well-rested.

Although it might be hard, remember that no matter what the circumstances, you need sleep. If you find yourself extra groggy, try taking a quick power nap before reaching for an unhealthy snack.

There is a relationship between work burnout and higher levels of emotional eating. A study at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found that women who had some degree of work burnout — exhaustive fatigue, cynicism, or a loss of occupational self-respect — scored higher on measures of uncontrolled or emotional eating.

To combat this one, start a semester ahead. Choose classes you will look forward to attending, and don’t take all of your most difficult classes during the same semester. Pace yourself, and try to take at least one class a semester that you know you will genuinely enjoy going to.

By Juliana LaBianca

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