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Emotional Miscalibration: It's why you choose to eat unhealthy even though you know better

In a recent interview with Laurie Langcastor, host of the Weekend Wakeup Show on Winnipeg radio station CJOB, I was talking about emotional intelligence (EQ) and how our insensitivity to our feelings and low self confidence influences food choices.

Laurie hit the nail on the head when she said, "you sit down to eat a cookie and you eat the whole bag, and you don't why you did it".

Researchers believe they have an answer; emotional miscalibration.

Two studies published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that those with low confidence and low ability (low emotional intelligence) made poor food choices compared to those with high confidence and high emotional intelligence.

Low confidence + low emotional intelligence = emotional miscalibration

High confidence + high emotional intelligence = emotionally calibrated

Emotional calibration can be described as how closely self confidence is matched with emotional intelligence. Although there isn't total agreement on the exact definition of "emotional intelligence" by the experts, the idea is that emotional intelligence is ones ability to be self aware, to recognize meanings of emotional patterns, and how our emotions affect our decisions.

An extra serving of chocolate fudge? Wait a second, I have to calibrate my emotions..

That's the step we miss. Stopping to consider how we feel when making a food choice. If we are emotionally miscalibrated we're significantly more likely to make a poor food choice, according to the University of Kentucky researchers.

So what to do?

Become more sensitive to our emotions. That might sound too fluffy and abstract to many, but really it's totally scientific and objective. We have emotions, that's a fact. Our emotions strongly influence our reasoning processes; if we can't comprehend our own emotions, how do we expect to feel confident about decisions we make?

Have you ever felt torn between the feeling of reward and the risk of harm? If you've waffled (pun intended) on the decision to eat a pile of chocolate greatness because you know too many calories = die early, but you want it anyway because it tastes sooo gooood, then you've pondered reward and harm.

If you chose the chocolate greatness chances are your emotional attachment to the immediate gratification interfered with good judgment and you rationalized the harm. You didn't have enough confidence in your ability to make sense of what you were feeling, and the line between right and wrong was muddled. Further, you may not even know that emotions are stirring below the surface and affecting your choice; all you are aware of is that you made a choice.

If you are "emotionally calibrated" you would recognize your emotions, recognize the harm associated with the unhealthy choice, and have confidence in understanding that you may be attracted to the calamity of calories, but can put that attraction aside due to it's obvious harmful outcome, and move on.

Sounds easy hey? The concept is simple: develop the ability to stop, get a sense of what you are feeling, put things in perspective, and make the right choice. If you're not emotionally calibrated it will take time to develop self confidence and accurately interpret your own emotions.

Practice often, keep it up, and you too can be "emotionally calibrated".

Kidwell et al. Emotional Calibration Effects on Consumer Choice. Journal of Consumer Research, December 2008; 080822100129612 ABSTRACT

2008 Cris LaBossiere Rhino Fitness

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