Most of us love to eat and sometimes we eat for reasons other than hunger. It may be out of stress or other emotional reasons which isn’t new to anyone. Alex Korb PhD and neuroscientist at UCLA have discovered brain circuit for eating overlaps and interpersonal relationships, where neurobiology suggests correlation of improving social relationships and losing weight.
Ever wonder why our appetites diminish when we’re in love? Oxytocin, a neurotransmitter responsible for social relationships is released through physical and social interactions with people. Release of oxytocin produce more positive feelings like happiness, generosity and trust.
In the same way, it also lessens negative emotions like stress and anxiety; amazingly, experts have found that eating release oxytocin in brain areas where there is rich dopamine and that basically explains why eating is a pleasurable act. In addition, we get comfort by eating which itself, copies the feeling of comfort we get from family and close friends. Experiment on rats (Morton 2012) even shows that oxytocin is the leading cause of weight loss for overweight rats!
Another study in 2013 that oxytocin help reduce snacking in humans particularly on eating chocolate cookies. So, if you are trying to lessen your snacking or even lose weight, you might want to boost your oxytocin a.k.a love hormones.
Experts suggest the best way to do it is to better your relationship with family, partner and friends. Sounds like a simple suggestion but problems with these connections often cause emotional and stress eating. Korb say that while you’re in the process of working on relationships, the following ways to encourage serotonin (one of your happy chemical quartet) production that doesn’t involve eating:
Embrace a family, friend or partner. According to studies, the act of hugging decreases blood pressure. Ask for a long embrace and release more oxytocin! In Colombia, even men with men greet often with a warm hug which shows that physical touch from friends or family can be a positive thing that impacts our emotions and mind.
Indulge in a massage. As previously mentioned, physical contact can increase your oxytocin and if you’re not in a relationship, relying on a soothing massage can help you release large oxytocin too! Moreover, lounging around team rooms and indulging in a hot stone massage which, by the way, is what Singaporeans love to do to de-stress on a holiday, can help you unwind.
Have conversation with human voice. There are things written text can’t give that phone calls and in-person talks can—oxytocin. An oxytocin study conducted US scientists revealed that a mother’s phone call can feel as comforting as an actual hug. Now, it may not necessarily be your mother but it tells us that a human voice, someone dear to you, can have the same smoothing effect as cuddle.
Do random acts of kindness. This can exemplify saying nice things to a friend (and genuinely mean it). According to bestselling author Dr. David Hamilton acting kindly creates emotional warmth that causes the production of oxytocin, one of the hormones that makes us feel happy.