When you’re bored, depressed, or anxious, you eat. You project all kinds of feelings onto your eating, and this is not always healthy.
Here, we’ll tell you why you channel your emotions through food.
Eating is linked to emotions
It’s not news. Beyond the physical necessity of eating, oftentimes food turns into the magic charm for our frustration, sadness, and bitterness.
On the other hand, you see that food is also associated with parties, celebrations, and gatherings with loved ones in every culture. In fact, a nice meal along with good conversation can be as good as therapy.
It’s very hard to not associate food with feelings, because it is a habit that comes down to you through the generations. The problem comes when the feelings you associate with food are not beneficial or gratifying.
Eating disorders are based on this “unhealthy relationship” with eating. Food can turn into a need, a denial, or a projection of emotional issues we have not yet resolved.
Eating out of anxiety, depression, or boredom may soothe you, but it’s only temporary.
In addition, you should know that the food choices you make are not objective when you choose them because of emotions. You tend to choose unhealthy, sugary, fried, salty, or high-fat foods.
If you add that to the fact that these kinds of foods often contain additives, it’s very hard to pick fruit or vegetables over chocolate chip cookies when you’re blue.
Then, the next time you need comforting, you’ll turn to the foods you’ve become dependent on.
“Read this too: 3 Buddhist Concepts to Manage Your Emotional World”
When and why do I use food to channel my feelings?
There are many reasons you choose certain foods, although there are some reasons that are more common:
Stress comes along with a loss of control when it comes to the kind and amount of food you eat. Some people eat more when they’re stressed, others eat less.
What we know is that this emotion doesn’t let you take the time to make healthier meals, which tends to lead to choosing foods that are harmful to your health.
Poor body image
This is the most common situation with teenagers. Here, there are overly strict or restrictive diets, or – on the other extreme – overeating sugar and fat because of the depressed feelings that poor body image creates. Naturally, this leads to being overweight or obese.
You’re laying on the couch or lounging in bed with nothing to do, so you go to the kitchen, open the fridge, and eat, as if it were entertainment.
This also happens when you’re doing tedious work or just watching TV.
Bad mood or anger
After a having a fight or when you’re sad, you eat more, especially sugary foods. After all, the stereotypical image of depression is a person in bed with a big tub of ice cream.
It raises the question: why do we choose to eat unhealthy foods to channel our emotions? What makes us pick high-calorie, high-fat, salty or sugary foods instead of something healthy?
If we want to understand this, we have to talk about your brain’s reward center. There are experiences that press a kind of “button” in your mind that motivates you to repeat certain behavior.
Every time you do something that’s hard and takes a lot of effort, you “give yourself a treat” and go shopping, go out to eat, or give yourself any other kind of little present.
Three experiences that activate this reward “button” in your brain are:
- Social relationships
These thinks connect your emotional limbic system with your pleasure centers through dopamine. This neurotransmitter is released and produces hormones like endorphins, in charge of triggering pleasure, gratification, and happiness.
Just like with other addictive substances (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs), food makes you happy when you eat it and you forget your problems for a little bit.
But why do we pick unhealthy foods to put our feelings into? It’s basically a survival issue.
- In ancient times, our ancestors would go up to weeks without eating.
- When they finally did get food, their brains prioritized higher calorie foods in order to fill up their energy reserves again.
In other words, eating fat or sugar activated (and still activates) the brain’s reward center.
“We recommend reading: 13 Easy Strategies to Free Your Mind and Manage Your Emotions”
How to keep from channeling your emotions through food
It’s a process and may take months, but it’s worth a try. Little by little, you should reduce your consumption of high-calorie foods and opt for more healthy choices.
A very effective trick is to put a basket of fruit as soon as you enter the kitchen. Another technique is to go grocery shopping after eating a meal so that you don’t buy without thinking.
It may also be a good idea to hide your unhealthy food and, of course, take the time to make well-balanced meals.