Emotional eating does not trigger weight gain: Study
Washington: A scoop of ice cream after a sad break up does not add to your weight, says a recent study. The study, which included researchers from Penn State, was investigating the German concept of "kummerspeck" -- excess weight gain due to emotional eating -- which literally translates to "grief bacon."
Marissa Harrison, associate professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg, said that while hoarding food after a breakup may have made sense for humans thousands of years ago, modern humans may have grown out of the habit.
"Food was much scarcer in the ancestral environment, so if your partner abandoned you, it could have made gathering food much harder," Harrison said. "It may have made sense if our ancestors hoarded food after a breakup. But our research showed that while it's possible people may drown their sorrows in ice cream for a day or two, modern humans do not tend to gain weight after a breakup," added Harrison.
The results recently published in the 'Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium'. According to the researchers, it has been well documented that people sometimes use food as a way to cope with negative feelings and that emotional eating can lead to unhealthy food choices.
Because breakups can be stressful and emotional, it could potentially trigger emotional eating. Additionally, ancient relationship dynamics may have made packing on the pounds after a breakup evolutionary advantageous.
"Modern women, of course, have jobs and access to resources now, but back then, it was likely that women were smaller and needed more protection and help with resources," Harrison said. "If their partner left or abandoned them, they would be in trouble. And the same could have gone for men. With food not as plentiful in the ancestral world, it may have made sense for people to the gorge to pack on the pounds," added Harrison.
Harrison also noted that the existence of the word "kummerspeck" itself suggested that the phenomenon existed. The researchers completed two studies to test the theory that people may be more likely to gain weight after a relationship breakup.
Most of the participants -- 62.7 per cent -- reported no weight change. According to Harrison, she and the other researchers were surprised by this result and decided to perform an additional study. For the second study, participants reported experiencing a break up at some point in their lives, the majority of participants -- 65.13 per cent -- reported no change in weight after relationship dissolution.
"We were surprised that in both studies, which included large community samples, we found no evidence of kummerspeck," Harrison said. "The only thing we found was in the second study, women who already had a proclivity for emotional eating did gain weight after a relationship breakup. But it wasn't common," continued Harrison.