By Ashley Clarke
Ever notice how you just feel a little lighter after a laugh with some friends, or a heartfelt convo with a loved one? Those kinds of positive social interactions can directly boost your mental and emotional wellbeing.
But here’s a less obvious connection:
Strong social connections might help people eat better, too. That’s because loneliness is often a driver of emotional eating. Having adequate social support lowers stress and maybe the incidence of “angry chip eating” or “crying into a bowl of ice cream”.
But here’s the thing:
Even when people know that connection with others is good for their health, they might still be reluctant to actually pick up the phone. Why is it so hard to reach out?
A University of Chicago study pointed to an interesting answer:
We undervalue how much people care about staying connected with us. When we consider reaching out to someone, we’re likely to have thoughts like, “She’s probably busy with her own life. I don’t want to bother her.” Or, “I only have time for a five-minute conversation and that’s not really enough time to catch up.”
But here’s the tragic irony:
Most people are craving connection. They feel delighted and heartened when someone calls or texts to check up on them or chooses to confide in them. And yet, many of us feel like no one cares to hear from us. Meanwhile, we turn to the cookies instead of a trusted friend.
Why bring up this interesting study?
Challenges with food and fitness aren’t always about food and fitness. What looks like a food issue (overeating) might actually be a social issue (if overeating is triggered by loneliness and isolation). And that social issue might not be caused by a lack of connections per se, but by inaccurate assumptions.
If you struggle with emotional eating, dig a little. What else in your life gives them comfort and support—aside from food? If your social plate is a little empty, consider taking the initiative to grow your relationships. You could even make a list of little social tasks to do whenever you get the urge to eat.
Text a friend.
Schedule a walking date.
Hop on FaceTime for a chat.
Go old school and write a loved one a note.
Just see what happens. Your connection with someone just might make you feel a little fuller.