Open Gently

Musings on the introspective life.

Do You Eat More When You're Happy?

Turning to comfort foods may not be such a crime.

As we approach Thanksgiving, we're all probably going to be eating more than we usually do—people eat more in big groups.

But you may not want to give yourself a hard time about your usual ups and downs in eating style.

Some people eat more when they're stressed out; others skip meals.

I'm a meal skipper. I lose weight when I'm unhappy. I also tend to reward myself with splurges on forbidden foods when I've just had a work success or a rewarding social experience.

It turns out in a new study that my behavior is typical. Meal skippers under stress seem to eat more when they're relaxed. And people who turn to food for comfort when they're stressed or unhappy eat less when times are good. Both kinds of eaters have a back and forth.

So if you've been scolding yourself harshly for relying on comfort foods, you might still want to watch it—but don't assume you're necessarily going to end up fatter than a meal skipper.

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You can read about the study here.

Temma Ehrenfeld is a New York-based science writer, and former assistant editor at Newsweek.

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