Are you dieting? Watch your temper, because a new study shows that when you’re cutting calories, you’re more likely to be cranky, irritable, and angry. In a series of experiments, researchers at Northwestern University and the University of California at Irvine asked volunteers to pick between an apple or chocolate as a snack. Then they were asked to choose between two comedies starring Adam Sandler: “Billy Madison” or “Anger Management.” The result: People who chose the apple were more likely choose “Anger Management.” The researchers found that when people are asked to make a wise or restrained choice – like an apple - their later reactions are angrier than people who give in to their impulses.
So, why does dieting make us angry? Because the effort involved in using willpower and restraint to control what you eat, leaves it in short supply when you need to control your anger. In other words, once your willpower is tapped out, it’s easier to lose control and lash out at the people around you. Also, our relationship with food goes beyond sustenance - it’s about enjoyment. When you take away the good stuff, you can get really grouchy.
So, how can you diet without losing your cool? Make sure you’re not depriving yourself of everything. Have some chocolate every now and then, and feed your brain with healthy, calming foods. For example:
- Fatty fish – like salmon, tuna, sardines, and anchovies – contain omega-3 fatty acids, which fight depression and promote overall mental wellness.
- Also: Dark, leafy greens can stem anger because they’re loaded with stress-reducing magnesium.
- Walnuts and cherries can help keep your temper under control when you diet, because they contain the relaxing hormone, melatonin.
- One final diet tip: Drink tea! Both green and black tea contain an amino acid which has a calming effect.