by Reid Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski
For those of you who ate to much this Thanksgiving or who are already strategizing a New Year’s resolution to counteract all the holiday sweets, you may want to try the latest thing: a new weight-loss plan called the “Cuddle Party Diet.” It’s fantastic. You make new friends, get some affection, and leave feeling relaxed and elated. What could be better?
Humorous though it may sound, it could be true. A number of recent studies have indicated that cuddling may actually help you lose weight. But how can that be?
It all goes back to a chemical your body makes called oxytocin. The “cuddle hormone,” as it’s known, is released when people are physically affectionate with each other. In addition to counter-acting stress (which causes weight-gain), oxytocin curbs impulsive cravings for things like sweets. Plus, its release in your body makes you feel like you’re on cloud nine. Now, this study was done on lab mice, who, as far as we know, did not attend any Cuddle Parties, but the study corroborates some unofficial findings that we’ve been keeping under wraps here at Cuddle Party Headquarters: Cuddling helps you lose weight!
Without having done any studies of our own, it seems we have stumbled onto something here.
As an organization, we’d lost close to three hundred pounds without even trying.The weight-loss phenomenon was first noticed early 2006, at the first Cuddle Party Facilitators gathering. During a discussion about what the facilitators themselves were getting out of running Cuddle Parties, one woman mentioned weight loss and, all of a sudden, a bunch of hands went up in the air. She wasn’t alone. We got out a large pad of paper and everyone wrote down how much they’d lost (if they’d noticed or been keeping track). The result was shocking: As an organization, we’d lost close to three hundred pounds without even trying. One certified Cuddle Party Facilitator had lost a whopping 30 lbs!
We discussed it more and decided that we would each ask our cuddlers back home if any of them had experienced losing any weight. Sure enough, reports came back in the following weeks that many of the people who had been regularly attending Cuddle Parties had experienced some weight loss too. Had we inadvertently created the next fad diet?
Well, as crazy as it sounds, cuddles-leading-to-weight-loss does make sense. Why wouldn’t feeling more confident and healthy result in shedding a few pounds? Excluding the whole “oxytocin curbs cravings” angle that the scientists and the lab mice figured out, one logical side-effect of simply feeling good about yourself would seem a drastic cut in the urge to self-medicate with food. Happy people binge less, it seems.
It turns out our less-than-affectionate culture may be a culprit in packing on the pounds. In our attempts to feed our skin hunger, we often reach out for things that don’t actually address the problem – a snack, some chocolate, booze, or a new pair of shoes we can’t walk in. We reach for a snack instead of a snuggle and years later we find ourselves still touch-starved with the added depression of being overweight (and a closet full of barely worn shoes).
Outside of one’s romantic relationships, our culture thinks that sustained, affectionate touch between adults – anything longer than a handshake – is downright weird. Add to that the stresses of modern life (which cause you to gain weight), and is it any wonder why so many of us are carrying around a few extra pounds?
Of course, in a world where asking a stranger to come home with you for a one-night stand is more acceptable than a one-night cuddle, the idea that cuddling might actually lead to “a slimmer, healthier, more confident you” sounds like the sales-pitch of a 21st century snake-oil salesman. But when you discover all of the positive benefits of touch, well, it doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea after all.
So, the next time you feel like self-medicating from a bad day at work with a piece of chocolate, try turning to the person closest to you and asking them for a hug instead. Nothing against chocolate, but wouldn’t it be better to share that treat with a friend while holding hands? Be grateful and share. Just think of the mice. Poor, little fellahs… They can’t hold hands, and you just know the scientists ate all the chocolate.
Learn more about oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone“