Your eating habits can be affected by your emotions
Do you reach for a sweet treat to give yourself a boost when feeling down? Do you turn to that fully loaded stuffed crust cheese pizza for solace when you’re feeling stressed or anxious? Food and mood are strongly related, and I’m sure we’ve all at some point in our lives felt the effects of emotional eating.
This is why it is necessary to do a deep dive into your emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms when emotional eating becomes a habit that causes you to feel an endless amount of hopelessness.
Have you ever thought about the link between food and feelings and what exactly emotional eating is?
A significant life event is not always the cause of emotional eating; it can be brought on by a traumatic incident from childhood, ongoing stress or worry, or even just simple boredom. When someone is stressed, their body naturally craves carbs because they have chemical qualities that help calm and soothe us. By diverting our attention to food, we distract ourselves from what we are feeling, however, when this happens we are often unable to recognize our boundaries and exercise self-control in response to satiety cues.
So why do we tend to crave certain foods?
It’s been said that the precise emotions you’re feeling at the time may influence what you reach for depending on your emotional state. For example, one typically eats better while feeling good and when feeling depressed, stressed, or even anxious, most of us tend to reach for those great-tasting comforts which are generally sugary, high fat, and energy dense. They are called comfort foods for a reason and foods with high sugar content, for example, can actually trigger dopamine which is a pleasure neurotransmitter – hence why we tend to feel a bit better after consuming high sugary foods after feeling down.
It’s essential to consider how our emotions affect the foods we decide on. Also, while our emotions might influence what we eat, our food choices can affect how we feel. Given that it is both biological and psychological, the relationship between food and mood can be challenging.
Serotonin, for example, is a neurotransmitter that helps control your mood, sleep, pain, and hunger. Although it is found in the brain, the bulk of serotonin is actually found in the gut. Neurons and nerve cells line the inside of your digestive tract, and the gut flora will be impacted by how they work and how much serotonin is released. Thus, what you eat can also influence your mood.
Foods for the Moods
It is important to remember that a low-quality diet is to the brain like using petrol in a diesel engine. What you eat affects how your body feels, how your brain performs, and how your gut feels, all of which contribute to how you feel and how easy it is to get caught in this loop.
Various foods can assist in breaking this pattern, such as:
- Fatty-fish – Omega-3-rich fish, such as salmon and tuna, may lower your risk of depression.
- Fermented Foods – Since your gut produces up to 90% of the serotonin in your body, a healthy stomach may be associated with a positive mood. The probiotics in fermented foods like kimchi, yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut enhance intestinal health.
- Green Tea – contains antioxidant compounds and has been linked to helping reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Leafy greens – superfood greens such as spinach, lettuce, watercress, arugula, chard, and kale are high in nutrients such as folate and magnesium which can assist in reducing anxiety and enhance your mood.
- Blueberries – are one of the highest antioxidant-containing fruits with many added benefits. Blueberries contain flavonoids which assist in regulating your mood as well as help in the reduction of inflammation and depression.
Do you feel like you are an emotional eater?
- Do you generally eat whether or not you are hungry?
- Do you find yourself eating more when feeling stressed?
- Do you tend to reward yourself with food?
- Do you find yourself reaching in the cupboards or opening the fridge to feel better?
- Do you often eat until you are uncomfortable?
- Do you find yourself feeling out of control or helpless around food?
You can resist the temptation to eat your feelings.
You can choose what to eat if you are aware of the relationship between food and mood. Emotional eating is a hard habit to break, but you may overcome it by forming better habits and resisting your urges.
How to recognize you are in the “eating your feelings” loop:
Keeping note of what you eat and how you feel before and after is one of the greatest methods to spot unhealthy behaviour. If you keep your present routines for a week without making any adjustments while journaling what you ate and how you felt before and after, you will notice a pattern that will gradually form which will help you identify the emotions or triggers that lead to poor eating choices.
Now that you are more aware of the pattern, you can begin to think about breaking those habits and replacing them with new ones. For instance, if one of your triggers was returning home from a stressful day at work and you found yourself slumped on the couch reaching for the chocolates, look for a different approach to replace that habit. Take a walk outside to clear your mind or meditate for a few minutes. After some time, you’ll notice that the unhealthy behaviour will be replaced with the new one.
Take pause and think for a bit. It’s easier to go into the fridge or cupboard and grab something to munch on, but, pause and think twice before doing so. Ask yourself if you’re actually hungry or just reaching out of habit or in a bad mood. If you’re particularly hungry, think about looking for the foods that are better for you and that can help improve your mood.
Think about the consequences as well: you reach for that bag of chips or that box of cookies only to end up eating the entire thing, and feeling worse later.
Knowledge is power, and food and moods are intimately connected. You’ll be happier and healthier the more you understand how they interact. Consider consulting your accredited Slender Wonder Doctor to discuss the benefits of a healthy balanced diet and fuel your moods the healthy way.
For more information visit www.slenderwonder.co.za
*Please note that every individual’s experience is different and experience different causes of fluctuating moods. Not all individuals may have the same response to certain foods. This is a general look at how foods and moods are interlinked.