Looking Toward the Future Helps You Eat Healthy

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • There have been several posts on AnxietyConnection.com about how the food you eat can impact how you feel. A few inlclude, “Foods That Can Boost Your Mood,” written by Health Guide Amy Hendel and “Comfort Food Cravings”  written by Health Pro Jerry Kennard. What you eat can affect how you feel. Amy Hendel explains, “...you eat a large meal of pasta and bread and you feel really calm and peaceful...When you increase levels of serotonin, you can induce a feeling of well being and actually calm anxiety.”

    But just as what we eat can affect our mood, the opposite is true as well. How we feel can affect our food choices. We certainly already know that when feeling down you reach for “comfort foods.” But how you feel and what you think about can also affect whether you prefer healthy or unhealthy foods. A study completed by Meryl Gardner, an associate professor at the University of Delaware, shows that you make better food choices when in a good mood or when thinking about the future.

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    Gardner and several associates conducted four experiments to try to understand why we make certain food choices. They wondered if when in a good mood, you choose healthy foods because you are more concerned with long-term health and when in a bad mood you choose unhealthy foods because you crave the immediate satisfaction these foods often provide.

    For the first two experiments, participants read an article, either one about someone with a great life who had achieved goals or one about someone who had a sad life and did not achieve goals. The first experiment explored the effects of positive mood and food and looked at whether people in a good mood preferred healthy or indulgent foods. They found that those in a good mood were more inclined to eat healthy foods. The second experiment looked at whether those in a poor or bad mood would be more likely to eat indulgent and unhealthy foods. They found this to be true as well. The last two experiments took out the “future” aspect, having participants focus on the present moment rather than the achievement of goals.

    The researchers concluded that individuals in positive moods who are thinking about the future make healthy food choices, possibly because they consider the future health benefits of the foods. Those in negative moods preferred foods that gave immediate gratification. They also found that switching to thinking about the future, rather than the present, reduced the amount of indulgent foods people ate.

    Gardner believes that “mood repair” can play some part in helping people choose and eat healthy foods. Focusing on positive events and looking toward the future may curb your appetite.


    “Foods and Moods,” 2014, Feb. 12, Kathryn Meier, University of Delaware

Published On: March 05, 2014