Winter brings more time to spend with your family and snuggling with your significant other. But for some people winter can be extremely lonely. According to research, loneliness and social isolation affects 1 in 4 people and has the potential to post severe health risk. Reports also indicated that people with social connections had a 50% reduced risk of premature death.
There is a difference between being alone and loneliness. Loneliness is described as a depressive feeling or unpleasant emotional response to isolation. This feeling can occur even in a crowded room. Because our brain is wired to connect with people it will interpret loneliness as a form of stress. This activates the fight or flight syndrome and the release of cortisol. When "stress eating" is activated a person is unlikely to reach for a bowl of broccoli. Research has shown that physical or emotional distress can increase the craving and intake of food high in sugar and salt.
More Americans are living alone more than ever before. Modern technology including, social media and apps have thwarted people from forming meaning relationships that include a sense of belonging.
One of the founders of the field of social neuroscience and author of the book “Loneliness”, John Cocioppo describes loneliness as “an iceberg-it goes deeper than we can see. “ He explains further in his book the effects of loneliness as, “a sense of isolation or social rejection that disrupts not only our thinking abilities and willpower but also our immune systems and can be as damaging as obesity or smoking.
Loneliness has a detrimental impact on the body:
1. Disrupts the immune system and decreases the body’s ability to fight illness.
2. Raises cortisol levels as well as blood pressure.
3. Can cause fragmented sleep with a person where they always wake up tired.
Loneliness and Junk Food
This is not a dynamic duo. Eating unhealthy food can become a habitual coping mechanism to combat loneliness. Comfort food makes us feels good and unfortunately, there's an endless supply. Our sugar consumption alone averages 156 lbs, which is more than what some people weigh!
Processed foods are specifically designed to become addictive by adding certain ingredients. These substances cause physical triggers and a "food high" that lead to unhealthy food addictions.
“Food-High” is the natural feeling of intense euphoria before or after one’s favorite meal or consumption of favorite foods.
- Sugar/high fructose corn syrup
- Unhealthy Fats
- Flavor enhancers
- Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
"Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is an inexpensive flavoring agent used to make low quality food taste good." MSG can contribute to asthma, heart irregularities, seizures, headaches, and depression.
Casein aka "the nicotine of fast food" is a protein found in milk. "In fast food casein is transformed to a refined and concentrated form." It is the addictive property of cheese as well as french fries, buns, milkshakes, creamy salad dressings, whipped toppings, desserts, and sausages.
When unhealthy food replaces social connections, that relationship can be detrimental to your health.
5 Ways to Combat Loneliness and "Stress Eating"
1. Acknowledge if social isolation is a problem. Do you have family, friends, or any type of social supports? Sometimes its hard to admit it but this is the first step towards healing.
2. Are you open to getting out more to meet people and possibly reestablish old relationships?
3. Are you consuming unhealthy food hoping it will provide a temporary fix to your situation?
4. Is your weight or health an issue?
5. Are your food cravings out of control?
Let's start with a 10 Day "Debunk the Junk" Food Cleanse. This cleanse is a great way to jumpstart the dietary change you need to begin to take better control of your life. Click the link and let's get started.