Food and Mood:What is emotional eating and how does one cope with it? There is a deadline at work, you feel the pressure mounting and you haven’t had much sleep. You feel tired, petulant and anxious. You reach for that bag of chips or packet of biscuits as you try and figure out your presentation. You haven’t had lunch so you are ravenous. You finish that bag of chips and the biscuits and a bottle of some sweet syrupy drink. Why are you still hungry?
You go home in the evening and as you work at your laptop you pile up your plate with, you‘re not sure what exactly something greasy and filling. You mindlessly shovel food into your mouth as you try and focus.
Late into the night you eat a big bowl of ice cream as you watch the late night news, while another part of your brain tries to fathom the final touches to your presentation. By the time you get to bed at 2.00 a.m. you are exhausted, disconcerted and strangely, still hungry. Dose this sound familiar?Here’s another scenario. You’re feeling depressed and sad. You try to appease your senses with chocolate; as you keep eating, you seem to feel better, and the gratification of that creamy chocolate helps, temporarily.
An hour later, you reach for a piece of fresh cream cake; somehow it doesn’t seem to stop with a piece. Before you know it, the entire cake is over. Does this sound familiar too?
Connections – food and mood
Is there a connection between Food and Mood? Apparently, yes. All too often we find that our longings for food, especially “unhealthy” food, happen to concur with the most vulnerable periods in our life. During emotional low points, we discover ourselves unconsciously seeking solace in food. Emotional eating however can disrupt our well meaning efforts at weight loss and healthy eating. This leads to a tailspin of weight gain, self recrimination, and plummeting self-confidence, leading to further despair and overeating.
First, we need to understand that nearly all unhealthy eating is motivated that nearly all unhealthy eating is motivated by something we’re not always aware of on a conscious level. It is most often the result of unconstructive thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that may be lurking just below our conscious awareness.
The negative thinking is invariably the product of negative programming that we might have assimilated in childhood from parents, teachers, etc. we may have learnt early to soothe unpleasant feeling of a tumultuous childhood for instance with a candy bar, or parents may have used food as reward for ‘good behavior’. The positive sensations that were associated with the food involved may often need to be re-experienced in adulthood whenever one is anxious or unhappy. Major life stressors – such as death of a loved one, unemployment, ill health, divorce, day to day set backs such as had weather and unwelcome changes in your normal routine can trigger emotions that encourage overeating.
But why do negative emotions lead to overeating? Some foods have seemingly addictive qualities. For example, when you eat beguiling foods, such as chocolate, your body releases trace amounts of mood-enhancing hormones. Healthy eating it may make you feel better, if only momentarily.