Being HAPPY Makes You FAT; Forget the Idea That You Pile on Pounds When You're Feeling Down. Surprising New Research Reveals

Daily Mail (London), July 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Being HAPPY Makes You FAT; Forget the Idea That You Pile on Pounds When You're Feeling Down. Surprising New Research Reveals


Byline: by Marianne Power

OH DEAR, my jeans don't fit. Not at all. If I lie on the bed, suck in my breath and pull with all my might, I can just about get the zip up half way, but after that it just won't budge. As for the button -- ha! -- it's practically laughing at the idea it will ever be done up again.

And I wouldn't mind, but these are my stretchy jeans. The ones usually reserved for my bloated, hormonal, post-Christmas days. The jeans I dig out when I'm feeling my very biggest. Which means I am now bigger than my biggest.

I should be in a state of self-loathing, diet-starting panic. But as I look down at my full belly, note the beginnings of back fat poking out under my bra and assess the extra padding on my hips, all I can do is laugh and shrug.

Who cares if I've filled out a bit? What's a few extra pounds (OK, 15) between friends? In the old days I'd have been considered attractively Rubenesque.

Anyway, it doesn't matter what I look like on the outside, it's what's on the inside that counts. Yes, my thighs are chafing, but I'm happy! Boy, am I happy -- and that's the problem.

Forget putting on the pounds when you're miserable, the time I put on weight is when life is good. And life has been good of late. A three-month sabbatical travelling around the U.S. and a love affair -- or two -- have reignited my appetite for life, laughter... and food.

Cheeseburgers, chips, pasta, pancakes dripping in maple syrup with strawberries and cream, more pancakes ... temptations I would normally run a mile from have been welcomed with open arms -- or, rather, an open mouth.

Of course, we all go over the top when we're away, and I'd expected my indulgence to stop once I'd got home. But here I am, still eating, drinking and being merry -- too content to care that half my wardrobe is now a no-go area.

It turns out I'm not a comfort eater, I'm a happy eater.

But it's not just me. While the received wisdom is we reach for the crisps and chocolate when we're down in the dumps, new research shows it could be happiness that makes us pile on the pounds.

A study published last month found that if you are the kind of person who lets your mood affect your eating -- that's about 75 per cent of us -- you are likely to eat more calories when you are happy than when you are down.

In experiments carried out by psychologists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, 87 students were shown clips from films or TV shows in order to evoke a positive, neutral or bad mood.

TO GET them into a happy state, the students watched Mr Bean and When Harry Met Sally. To get them in a neutral mood, they were shown a fishing documentary. And for the negative mood, the students watched a clip from the film The Green Mile, when John, an innocent prisoner, is executed.

Straight after viewing the clips, they were offered crisps and chocolates, then researchers measured their calorie intake after each scene.

Students classed as emotional eaters by earlier psychological tests scoffed more after watching the happy clips than the negative one.

The researchers concluded: 'These findings could be of value for the treatment of obesity. They underline the importance of positive emotions on overeating, which are often overlooked.'

How true. When I'm stressed, my appetite vanishes. When I'm sad and lonely I might reach for the Dairy Milk and takeaways, but only for a couple of nights. …

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