Washington: Happy people are more likely to eat candy bars and hopeful ones choose fruit.
"Most of us are aware that we often fall victim to emotional eating, but how is it that we might choose unhealthy or healthy snacks when we're feeling good?" write authors Karen Page Winterich of Pennsylvania State University and Kelly L Haws of Texas A&M University.
They focused on the complicated relationship between positive emotions and food consumption, the Journal of Consumer Research reports.
To understand why someone would be more likely to choose a candy bar versus a piece of fruit, study authors teased out the difference between positive feelings that arise from thinking about the past or the present (pride and happiness) and hope, a more future-oriented emotion.
In the authors' first study, hopeful participants consumed fewer M&Ms (specialty frozen foods) than people who experienced happiness, according to a Penn State statement.
In a second study, they found that consumers who were more focused on the past chose unhealthy snacks even if they felt hope.
In the third study, the researchers shifted the time frame of the positive emotion - having participants feel hopeful about the past or having them experience pride in the future.
"That is, if someone is anticipating feeling proud, she prefers fewer unhealthy snacks than someone experiencing pride."
Finally, the authors compared future-focused positive emotions (hopefulness, anticipated pride) to future focused negative emotions (fear, anticipated shame). They found that the combination of positivity and future focus enhanced self-control.
"So the next time you're feeling well, don't focus too much on all the good things in the past. Instead, keep that positive glow and focus on your future, especially all the good things you imagine to come. Your waistline will thank you!" the authors conclude.