The Emotional Connection: Why We Turn to Gelato in Good Times and Bad

The US industry-leading gelato manufacturer's blog

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Emotional eating. You see it everywhere, from television commercials to chick flicks. And one of the most popular and powerful potions when we’re feeling sad, negative emotions or happy, positive emotions, is gelato (Italian ice cream), the ultimate comfort food.

Gelato feeds an emotional hunger rather than a physical hunger. Comfort foods, such as ice cream, offer a coping mechanism to deal with a stressful day, difficult emotions, anxiety, sadness, or any sort of emotional stress.

Why gelato? Looking at ice cream v gelato, it’s gelato that really satisfies our emotional needs. While it actually has less fat than ice cream, gelato is denser and richer. It’s also served at a slightly warmer temperature for best flavor.

There’s a good reason we turn to the gelato shop in times of sadness as well as pleasure – our brain. You see, foods with fat and protein boost our moods by increasing serotonin levels.

A single taste of Italian ice cream causes an immediate response in our orbitofrontal cortex, the area of our brain that makes us feel good. That’s why we so often search the internet for “gelato near me.”

emotional eating
Emotional eating can be triggered by upsetting events in our lives, resulting in a major carb binge.

Unmasking the Culprits: What Are Our Emotional Eating Triggers?

Emotional eating happens when we use foods to cover up or deal with intense emotions, either negative emotions or positive ones. Some people tend to rely on emotional eating as a coping mechanism, emotional fulfillment, or a way to manage emotions for a life event, after a life event, as a treat for going through the event, or as a reward for good behavior.

Emotional eaters may feel good in the moment and taste good, but eating your feelings isn’t the best way of dealing with negative emotions, and it won’t fix emotional problems. Using favorite foods to deal with emotional problems isn’t a bad thing when done occasionally, but it has to be kept under control. Emotional eating is not the best way to deal with life’s problems and often prevents us from finding other ways to cope with our emotions.

emotional eatingEmotional eating triggers

Everyone is different, so what triggers emotional eating can be fear, guilt, sadness, or stressed out. However, emotional eating can make you feel worse. It can cause weight gain. Emotional eating has no place in healthy lifestyle habits.

That’s why it’s important to recognize the common causes, the emotional eating patterns, and personal triggers that encourage us to eat a whole bag of french fries or potato chips or seek out sugary foods. It’s not physical hunger we’re feeling – it’s emotional hunger that makes us seek out comfort food.

Emotional eating doesn’t just happen because of negative emotions like sad feelings, being angry, or being stressed out, but there are other triggers, such as social influences when out for a meal with friends or family. It can also be part of childhood habits to use emotional eating as a comfort mechanism.

In the moment, you may feel pleasure, but then comes guilt for eating too much or eating unhealthy foods.

Or perhaps you find yourself emotional eating from boredom. Eating our favorite comfort foods can hallway fear and make us feel safe. But then we feel bad, thinking about the weight gain and the tool on our body. There are other ways, better ways, to cope with emotions instead of eating our feelings.

Some self-care, such as meditation, can enable you to take better control of your thoughts and feelings. This in turn will stave off the comfort eating!

Practice Mindful Eating: Tips to Truly Enjoy Every Gelato Moment

Emotional eating habits can distort how you see food and cause you to eat from emotional hunger rather than physical hunger. Emotional eating needs to be turned on its head with the development of mindful patterns. This type of eating is a type of meditation. It helps you increase your everyday awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations in a given moment. This practice can help with anxious feelings, depression, and even eating disorders.

You’ll get more pleasure from every bite of gelato ice cream with this practice. The goal is to slow down at mealtime. This helps you gain control over your cravings, and eating habits to reduce the habit of emotional eating and learn hunger cues. It helps you learn when you’re doing emotional eating, and that what you see as a treat when you’re stressed out is doing you more harm than good.

mindful eatingWays to practice eating mindfully

When you eat mindfully, you’re joining body and mind to avoid emotional eating. It’s about hunger vs. cravings, with a focus on eating food instead of feelings.

Slow down

It takes 20 minutes after you eat something to feel full. To avoid overeating, do things like sitting down to eat, chewing each bite 30 times, or laying your fork down between bites. Think about it. Are there ways that work for you that will slow things down? Eating is not a race, nor should it cause stress.

Know your hunger signals

As you search around for something to eat, think about whether you’re responding to your body’s needs or if you’re just looking for something to alleviate life stress. Are the signals you’re getting in your mind emotional feelings or feelings of real hunger? In the case of eating, it’s better to listen to our bodies than our minds. By being mindful, you can discover your emotional eating triggers and recognize them for what they are.

Be mindful of the habits you are creating

To truly become a mindful eater, you have to pay attention to habits. Do you wander your kitchen mindlessly, looking through cabinets and in the refrigerator, choosing things randomly? Mindfulness means thinking proactively about the food you eat. You want to eat foods that make you physically strong rather than those that are simply a response to stress.

Again, sit down for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Plan meals. Organize your kitchen so healthy foods are within easy reach and less healthy foods are hidden in the back of a cupboard. And never shop for food when hungry. You’re more inclined to buy junk food.

Think about where your food comes from

Pause to consider where your food came from, think about cultural traditions, and feel gratitude. This is easy to do and feel and helps us make wiser food choices. Especially appreciate food made by a family member or a person close to you. Feel the love.

Pay attention when you’re eating

If you shovel down your food sitting in front of the TV or scrolling through your phone, you’re practicing distracted eating, and that isn’t going to help you develop healthy habits when it comes to food. Not only will you be distracted, you might overeat because what you are distracted by may dredge up unhappy or anxious feelings. It also makes it more difficult to know when we are full. If you’re paying attention to the TV rather than your food, you might miss all the incredible creamy joy of your favorite variety of gelatos flavors.

physical wellness
By keeping your body in good condition, you’ll find energy and confidence you never thought you had

The Benefits of Mindful Eating

Aside from getting the most out of your yummy Italian gelato, some great benefits come from eating mindfully.

lose weightYou’ll lose weight

Since you’ll stop eating when you’re full, make better food choices, and stop eating your feelings, you’ll lose weight, even without counting calories.

reduce stressLess stress

When you’re anxious or fearful or otherwise worked up emotionally, you’ll suffer from the fight-or-flight response. Mindfulness-based exercise, such as mindfully eating, helps reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

reduce overeatingReduce overeating

A mindfulness framework helps you pause eating and check in with yourself so you slow down and enjoy your food. Are you full? Still hungry?

satisfactionIncreased satisfaction

You’ll feel more satisfied with what you’re eating when you pay attention to it. You’ll savor the flavor and know when to stop eating because you’ll know your satisfaction cues.

healthy foodMake better food choices

It’s amazing what happens when you’re aware of how food makes you feel. Is the way you are eating or what you are eating making you feel bloated, sluggish, and ready for a nap? Or do you feel energized because instead of eating your feeling, you actually ate foods that are good for you?

So, to review:

  • Turn off device notifications and set your device aside.
  • Spend a minimum of 20 minutes eating.
  • Begin with a small portion.
  • Chew slowly and with appreciation, taking small bites.
  • Notice sensations and senses. How does the food look? How does it feel?
  • Check-in with yourself often. Are you still hungry or are you satisfied?
gelato freshly made
Gelato has long been viewed as the healthier alternative to ice cream.

Balancing Indulgence: Gelato in the Context of Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Gelato lovers can rejoice! Two large studies conducted by Harvard University over a 20-year period found that people who ate gelato no more than twice weekly are 12% less likely to get cardiovascular disease when compared with those sad souls who never eat it.

And it can even help you lose weight. One YouTuber lost 32 and had improved bloodwork after eating only ice cream and taking protein supplements over 100 days. Eating gelato in the context of healthy lifestyle habits that include a healthy diet and exercise is fine, but when those cravings hit, use portion control.

pros and cons Pros and cons: Getting the maximum joy from gelato

While it may seem like a total indulgence, there are actually pros – aside from cardiovascular benefits – from eating gelato. The key is not to eat it every day. Not only is that boring, but what your taste buds enjoy isn’t always so great for the rest of you.

The pros

  • Gelato is a good source of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A.
  • You can bump up the nutrition with toppings like berries and other fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole-grain cereal.
  • It causes a mood boost.

The cons

Here’s why eating gelato more than the recommended twice a week can create not be so great:

  • You can get a sugar crash if you have too much. The recommended portion is 1/2 cup. Eating more than that means that the mood-enhancing effects can lead to quite a letdown.
  • You may enjoy it instead of more nutritious foods.

Cons aside, because it has less fat, you’ll find gelato healthier than ice cream.

i scream gelato
I Scream Gelato always encourages responsible eating and we invite you to do so at one of our locations!

Have Your Gelato and Eat It, Too: Practice Balance and Awareness in Eating Habits

Emotional eating can have many causes, including work stress, worries about health and finances, and relationship problems. Also, if you have a history of dieting, you may be more likely to eat emotionally. It pays to take a look inside yourself. Do you have problems with realizing how you really feel and describing your emotions?

The key is balance. No food is good or bad. To develop healthy eating habits, the Centers for disease control has some good advice. Reflect on all of your eating habits and what triggers unhealthy eating. Do you eat too fast? Do you eat when you’re not hungry?

Replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones, and give yourself credit for doing so. Eat only when you’re hungry, and plan your meals. Avoid “grazing.” Reinforce your new habits, and notice when you don’t follow them. Don’t punish yourself. Take it one hour, one day at a time.

When you are more aware of yourself and your eating habits, enjoying a delectable cup or cone of gelato from gelaterias truly becomes a reward for your hard work and tastes that much better.

Taste Drive Our Gelato

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