Why is it that we call certain foods ‘guilty pleasures’? Because you often associate unhealthy food with a negative emotion, like guilt or shame.
A set of new studies argue that the emotional relationship you have with food impacts on what you choose to eat. In a study in the Journal of Marketing, one group of people were given a nutritional course and lessons on how to recognise emotions in themselves and others.
A separate group were given only the nutritional course. The ‘emotions’ training had people assess how they felt, and how they thought others felt about the food products that were presented to them.
At the end, the two groups were asked to pick a snack. Results showed that those who had received the training in emotional recognition were more likely to choose the healthier option than those who did not.
In a slightly different study in the same paper, people were monitored for three months. Again, those who received the emotional training had lost more weight than those who did not.
The authors of the research paper wrote, “Consumers are often mindless eaters. This research provides a framework for how consumers can become more mindful of their food choices. The authors developed an ability-based training program to strengthen people’s ability to focus on goal-relevant emotional information. They demonstrate not only that emotional ability is trainable and that food choices can be enhanced but also that it improves food choices beyond a nutrition knowledge training program.”