Why We Eat & Our Emotions

November 26, 2016

 

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do we eat?” According to food psychologist, Dr. Brian Wansink, we make over 200 food decisions per day and we are only aware of 90% of those decisions. 1

 

Although, one of the most important reasons we eat is because it is a basic necessity for human survival. Outside of air and water, food is the only other thing required for human life. Food provides us with important nutrients including vitamins, minerals, fat, carbohydrates, fiber and protein. These nutrients are then utilized by the body to build tissues and organs. So, one reason we may eat is to fuel the tank. If the tank isn’t filled, we can’t go. However, most of the time we are eating for reasons other than to fuel the tank.

 

Sometimes people eat because they are sad, mad, happy, or bored.  Eating and food have a strong link to our emotions. Eating can be used to provide support, comfort or reward -- caused by emotional hunger. Emotional hunger occurs when we use food to make ourselves feel better. For example, a crying baby is often comforted by its mom and warm milk. The idea that food will alleviate problems is impressed upon us from the day we are born. While sometimes it is okay to rely on food as a coping mechanism the cause of the emotions is not necessarily addressed and it can become reoccurring. Have you ever wondered if you are an emotional eater? Here are some good questions to ask yourself2:

  1. Do you eat when you’re feeling stressed?

  2. Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?

  3. Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothes yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?

  4. Do you reward yourself with food?

  5. Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?

  6. Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?

  7. Do you feel powerless or out of control?

It is very common and normal if you answered yes to one or some of these questions. However, you may want to consider if you are an emotional eater and try to identify the trigger.  Identify and addressing the trigger will help you feel better in the long run.  Some commons triggers include stress, boredom or feelings of emptiness, childhood habits, or even social influences. 2 Once you are able to identify the trigger then either on your own or with the help of a professional (a registered dietitian or therapist) you can learn and practice other coping mechanisms that do not rely on food to manage your emotions.  2

 

1 The Science of People. http://www.scienceofpeople.com/2015/06/the-science-of-eating/

 

2 Emotional Eating vs. Mindful Eating.  http://www.helpguide.org/articles/diet-weight-loss/emotional-eating.htm

 

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