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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Made with Love


Since returning from Europe, I’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible with my beautiful goddaughter Anna (and her/my family) who've been visiting from my upstate New York hometown. Anna is a good eater who isn’t very picky, and she’s an absolute sweetheart – she’s extremely thoughtful and generous and loves to share her food with me. One night, she made me mashed banana which she mashed with her very own hands. She was very quick to tell me though that she washed her hands very carefully beforehand because, “not washing your hands before mashing bananas can spread germs” (she’s so adorable!).

I wasn’t hungry but of course I enjoyed my mashed bananas (she told me she got the idea from the Wiggles song Mashed Banana (if you haven’t heard the Wiggles it’s an experience – I now have Hot Potato, Fruit Salad and Mashed Banana forever etched in my brain). And from now on, every time I see a banana, I’ll immediately think of Anna and remember this gesture of love and care giving.

It reminded me of something that was presented at the conference in Greece. One of the speakers was Brain Wansink, PhD, from Cornell University, author of the uber popular book Mindless Eating. Dr. Wansink shared that his research indicates that people use comfort foods more when they’re happy or celebrating than they do when bored or depressed. He says we mindlessly use food to extend happy feelings, or bring them back. He also argues that comfort foods aren’t limited to those from our childhood. He believes new comfort foods can be created any time (subconsciously) when a certain food intersects with a happy, pleasant time in our lives (he calls it the “conditioning of comfort”). Based on his theory, I may gravitate toward bananas to relive my happy Anna memories. And in Dr. Wansink’s opinion, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. He encourages people to “rewire” their comfort foods by pairing healthy foods with positive events and celebrations (like serving fresh strawberries drizzled with a little chocolate instead of a mondo hot fudge sundae after winning the game…).

Hmmm, maybe those Wiggles aren’t so bad after all (i.e. thank goodness the song wasn’t mashed butter!). So what do you think of Dr. Wansink’s theory? Please share your thoughts.
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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