So it turns out that loneliness contributes to overeating. We knew that already, but John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, recently outlined his findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference. His work shows that social isolation contributes to decreased blood flow throughout the cardiovascular system and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which affects the immune system and may influence appetite and metabolism and yes, even depressed mood.
Lonely people are more apt to quit an exercise program and they are more likely to eat high calorie foods in large portions to self-soothe. Food can become the best companion and the preferred entertainment on another lonely Saturday night. It comes as no surprise that an extra serving ot two of lasagna followed by enough cannoli to leave a diner in physical distress may seem like the perfect sedative when sleepless nights have become routine. But the short-lived comfort leaves a wake of restless tossing and turning, stomach aches and demoralizing self-talk that can be more stressful than the pre-binge anxiety.
If we can retrain our habits so that we learn to recognize the triggers (the creepy boss or the incredibly annoying date) that got us even thinking about self-soothing with cannoli, we can get a handle on slowing down the process and eventually allow ourselves to gently intervene in the lonely food-is-love practice. By mastering a set of skills aimed at praticing new ways of finding the support and comfort we crave more than Mom’s lasagna, we can groove new tunes to repair our lonely hearts.