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Emotions and eating behaviour – Part I

In this video prof. Nanette Stroebele-Benschop starts describing the relationship between emotions and eating behaviour
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Hello again and welcome to today’s lecture on the relationship between our emotions and our eating behavior. How do our emotions relate to our eating behavior?
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Let’s look at two aspects: Can emotions change our eating behavior? If so, how? And secondly, can what we eat change our emotions? Also if so, how and which foods? Let’s take a look at the first question in this lecture. Do I eat differently when I’m happy, sad, or angry? There are various concepts and theories regarding the relationship of emotions and food intake and today I would like to present the theory of Dr. Michael Macht, a resarcher and psychologist at the the University of Würzburg in Germany. For the past 20 years, Dr. Macht has looked into the relations of emotions and food intake taking into account both differences across individuals as well as the different responses caused by different emotions.
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We all react differently to certain situations. Some people report to eat less when stressed while others report to eat more. And being sad might cause a different eating response than being happy. Dr. Macht specifies five classes of
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emotion-induced changes of eating: Emotional control of food choice, eotional suppression of food intake Impairment of cognitive eating controls Eating to regulate emotions and Emotion-congruent modulation of eating Let’s look at the first category. For instance, tasting something sweet or highly palatable evokes a positive affective response that then promotes ingestion of more sweet and highly palatable food. On the other hand, tasting something bitter or even rotten evokes a negative affective response that leads to the termination of food intake. Plus, this category describes emotions aroused by food stimuli affecting food choice. Neophobia, the fear of trying new and unknown food, is an extreme example of a food-induced emotional response. The second category entails the emotional suppression of food intake.
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More specifically, we know that intense emotions suppress intake. Intense fear, for example, causes a fight or flight response which is accompanied by immediate physiological changes that are associated with autonomic nervous system responses inhibiting the motivation to eat. Glucose absorption is delayed and activity in the gastrointestinal tract is also inhibited. Another example, deep sadness causes most people to withdraw from the environment including the interest in food. The third category specifies the negative and positive emotions that can impair our cognitive eating control mechanism. The concept of restraint it’s something we will talk in more details in one of the other lectures in therefore I only briefly describe this class of emotion-inducted changes of eating.
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Research seems to indicate that particularly people who show high levels of dietary restraint appear to be less likely to control their eating behavior while being emotional. This applies to both negative and positive emotions. In other words, negative emotions for instance interfere with the restrained eater’s ability to control his or her food intake which leads to higher intake than desired. The fourth category implies that negative emotions elicit eating to regulate a negative emotion and make it less negative. Research on emotional eating as a stress release is manifold, particularly in the research on the relationship between emotional eaters, weight gain and the development of obesity Whether the ingestion of food causes a neurochemical response by e.g.
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the release of serotonin, or an endocrine response is still discussed but beside possible physiological changes that need some time to take effect, it has been observed that palatable food can immediately improve mood which speaks for an immediate hedonistic mechanism or a distraction from the mood as pathway to the mood changes. The last category is labeled emotion-induced modulation of eating and these eating behaviours can be conceived as a by-product of emotional activation. So sadness has been found to decrease and joy to increase pleasantness and motivation to eat. When you are happy and content you are more open to the environment, to offered food and even to new food experiences. Which in turn increases your mood even further.
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The same mechanism applies in the opposite direction when being sad, down or in a negative mood. This flow diagram by dr. Macht shows you which emotion can lead to which changes of eating. Depending on the type of emotion, different food choice or differences in eating behavior occour
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Let’s go through one pathway: Are your eating habits related to your emotions? If yes, then as an emotional eater you tend to regulate your emotions through food. So when you are sad or bored or irritated for instance, you choose either sweet or high fat foods or a combination of it in the hope to reduce your negative feelings. In summary, Dr. Macht proposes five categories of emotion-induced changes of eating but it is important to know that these categories do not necessarily apply to pathological disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. These categories are meant to describe normal everyday eating behavior patterns.
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And in the next lecture, we will talk about the opposite direction of how food groups and foods modulate our emotions.

How does our emotional states relate to our eating behaviour?

In this video step, Prof. Stroebele-Benschop explores the different ways emotions can affect our food intake, drawing from a model developed by Dr. Macht, Professor at the University of Würzburg.

It is important to note that this model does not apply to pathological eating behaviour, some of which were discussed last week, while others will be discussed next week.

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