Mar 23, 2015 10:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs


Are you on a diet? You might want to avoid watching tearjerkers.

Researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that participants in a study as well as moviegoers at a mall ate between 28 percent and 55 percewnt more popcorn when they watched sad movies like Love Story as they did when they watched comedies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

The researchers believe that movies generate emotional eating. “People may eat to compensate for sadness,” they say. 

It is possible, however, to retrain your brain not to nosh during sad movies by practicing more mindful eating habits.

“I advise clients to separate eating from any other activity for a week and take note,” says Julie Metos, PhD, a nutritionist at University of Utah Health. Don’t eat while watching TV, reading, driving or working on the computer. “Try this for a while to be mindful of unconscious eating,” she says.

Not sure how to start? “Leave the snacks in the kitchen. Learn to watch TV or a movie without snacks,” Metos says. If you’re actually hungry when you sit down, take just a reasonable portion to your seat in front of the screen.

Metos also recommends this technique to train your brain to be more mindful of what you’re eating: Eat an orange and really concentrate on the experience and the sensations. “Peel it, section it, smell it, enjoy the senses of the process of something so common. Then eat it slowly and experience the taste,” she says. “This is a different experience than eating the whole sleeve of Girl Scout cookies or M&Ms out of stress or unawareness.” 

But you don’t have to cut sad movies out of life. If you’re trying to up your intake of healthy foods like veggies, sad movies might be a good tool.

“Sad movies also lead people to eat more of any healthy food that’s in front of them,” says lead author and Cornell professor Brian Wansink. “It’s a quick and mindless way of getting more fruit or veggies into your diet.” 

diet emotional eating

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