“We eat for a variety of different emotions and we eat in a variety of different circumstances which are in turn connected with emotions,” Meryl Gardner, a marketing professor at the University of Delaware, says.
Gardner was the lead author on a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, which looked at food choice and mood, and there seems to be a consistent connection between negative emotions and unhealthy foods. What’s less clear is what foods we’re drawn to in a positive mood.
“When you’re in a good mood, you take a longer-term perspective,” Gardner says. “You see the forest, not the trees… When you’re focused on the near term, when you’re looking at what’s in front of your nose, you respond with what’s going to give you quick pleasure. And that’s triggered very much by bad moods.”
Dr. Leigh Gibson, a psychology professor at the University of Roehampton in London, disagrees, though he says he finds those results interesting.
The exact reasons why healthy eating might make you happy are unclear, but Gibson posits that if you intend to eat healthily, and you follow through, that could put you in a good mood. “Achieving goals is part and parcel of emotional experience,” he says.
*Mood image from Shutterstock.com