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why do we eat when we are depressed

Feeling down? Step away from the mac n cheese (Picture: Culinary Bro Down)
Whats your comfort food of choice? Do you find yourself reaching for the deep-fried mac n cheese balls after a long, hard day at the office? Many of us turn to comforting carbs and maybe a bucketful of sugar in our time of need. But, until now, we havent really known why. Thankfully, science has finally revealed why we turn to certain foods in times of need. Its all about our emotional connection with particular meals apparently. According to the results of a by a research team at the University of Buffalo, its probably because your mum or dad made it for you when you were little. Psychologist and lead researcher Shira Gabriel, who studies our emotional connection to food, says its not about the food itself, but about the memories it evokes.


If your mom makes something when youre a child, that food becomes associated with the care she gave you at the time, she says. She adds: If the care was good, the association will be good too. Its about more than just the food. Shiras theory was backed up by the findings of the study. The team monitored 100 peoples eating habits for two weeks via their food diaries. Those who said they had strong parental ties were found to rely on and enjoy comfort foods more than those who had poor or non-existent parental ties. And the former group was more likely to turn to comfort food when under stress of feeling unhappy. Shira says: You dont think, Im having mac and cheese today because Im feeling lonely and I need my mum.


But thats actually part of whats happening. So, next time youre having a hard day, perhaps just try giving mum a call before reaching for the Ben Jerrys. 2. Eating Too Little Many people find their appetite decreases when theyre feeling low. In some cases, they end up unintentionally. They have less desire for food and they start skipping meals often, theyre sleeping through meals, says Marjorie Nolan, MS, RD, a registered dietitian in New York and a national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Albers says that you may feel like you dont have the motivation or energy to eat when youre depressed. Also, stress can play a role in reducing your appetite.


Food isnt as appealing when youre anxious, worried, or feel hopeless, she says. But not eating enough can make you more irritable and sensitive, which can worsen your. 3. Eating Whatever Is Easily Available Shopping for and preparing healthy meals can seem daunting when youre depressed and lacking energy. As a result, you may reach for foods that are convenient but that arent particularly nutritious and you may not get enough variety in your diet. Depressed people often wind up eating fast food or whatever they have on hand in their kitchen such as their last box of cookies, says Sudeepta Varma, MD, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center. Its also easy for people with to get into a rut of eating the same foods all the time.


Its so hard for them to function that theyre looking for routine and structure. They may stop and get a bagel and cream cheese every morning and never try anything different, Nolan says. Another factor, Varma says, is that depressed people often have difficulties with concentration, memory, and making decisions. This can make simple tasks seem overwhelming, so they might eat a bowl of the same type of cereal for three meals a day, she says. Experts say you should seek treatment for your depression before you try to change your eating habits. Attempting to go on a diet, for example, can be frustrating and counterproductive if the depression hasnt been addressed first, Albers says.

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