Why you eat chocolate when you feel bad about your health

Your genes evolved to survive. To take you away from pain and immediate threats to your life, and make you feel good when you ate too.

Realistically, we no longer have immediate treats to our lives like we did back on the Serengeti. We’re unlikely to be invaded by the neighbouring tribe, there’s very few sabre toothed tigers in Sandyford these days, and even with the hot summer we’re not parched for a drink. But our survival hormones still work like that, and still look out for threats.

So when we step on the scales, or look in the mirror, and it’s not the result we want, we feel bad. The cortisol that triggered this feeling also triggers the feeling of “do something”. So our mammal brains remembers the things that make us feel good immediately. Enter chocolate (or jellies, or a takeaway, or a beer). It’s a very simple system at work. Feel Bad —> Do Something to Feel Good. It’s not Feel Bad —> Do the best thing long term to feel good.

Knowing this is the start of breaking the cycle. Knowing our deeply entrenched habit of reaching for chocolate when we feel bad doesn’t help us long term, we can start to interrupt it and change our behaviour.

The best thing you can do is ensure you don’t have the “bad stuff” in your house. The effort of going to the shops for comfort food can be enough of a deterrent. After that, we should look to something to replace the habit. This could be some sweet fruit instead of the processed sugars. It could be some water. It could be some stretching. It could even be to put on your favourite song and take your mind away from the ill feeling for a few minutes.

This week, take a look at your go to behaviours when you feel bad, and ask yourself if they’re helping long term, or only a temporary relief.

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