Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said: “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”.
Do you turn to food for comfort or when you’re bored? Many people do.
Are you eating until you are uncomfortable and stuffed?
You’re gaining weight and you don’t know why? Don’t assume that it’s just that you’re getting older or slacking on the treadmill.
Obeying the urge to eat more than you need is a sure-fire way to gain weight. If you often eat for emotional reasons instead of because you’re physically hungry, that can be a problem. The surprising part is, it’s not really about food at all. You might not even realize you’re doing it. Consider how you’re doing emotionally and whether that might be affecting your eating. You can get back in control of your emotional eating.
For thousands of years, people have believed that food could influence their health and well-being. Since medieval times, people started taking great interest in how certain foods affected their mood and temperament.
You need to understand how your emotions can manipulate your diet. If you are depressed which means you probably have a high AA/EPA ratio (which is an indication of levels of cellularinflammation in your body) and low serotonin levels or are physically or mentally stressed which increases cortisol (stress hormone) levels, it’s likely that
you are craving for carbohydrate-rich comfort foods like mashed potatoes, candy bars and pizza. Research has found that emotions affect eating and that negative moods and positive moods may actually lead to preferences for different kinds of foods. For example, if given the choice between grapes or chocolate candies, someone in a good mood may choose the former while someone in a bad mood may choose the latter.
These foods do provide temporary emotional comfort by increasing blood sugar levels and serotonin levels in your brain. Two or three hours after eating these foods, however, your insulin levels will soar causing your blood sugar levels to plunge.
This forces your body to increase cortisol production to maintain adequate blood sugar levels to the brain. Thus, you’ll wind up increasing your production of cortisol, which will, in turn, generate more depression and require another cycle of self-medication with carbohydrates.
You might try to solve these mood swings with more comfort food, but all you’re doing is setting off a continuing cascade of hormonal events that will continue to thwart your efforts to lift your spirits. In fact, you’re also giving yourself a sure-fire prescription for accelerated aging and continued emotional lows.
The truth is not all emotional eating is unhealthy. It’s normal and natural occasionally to eat to celebrate with friends or because you’re feeling blue. “It only becomes a problem when it is used frequently and even in the face of unhealthy consequences, such as medical issues.
“Self-compassion is the first step toward learning to comfort yourself in other ways.” — Leslie Becker Phelps, PhD
If your emotions affect your physiological health, can your diet affect your emotions?
I believe that it can and that you can enhance your emotional well being with the foods you choose to eat and certain ways you can cope with curbing the desire momentarily has the potential to improve your emotional state and deal with emotional eating. I’m not saying that dietary recommendations can totally control your emotions, but they will give you significantly more control than you probably currently have.
- Supplementing with high-dose fish oil reduces your levels of both pro-inflammatory cytokines and eicosanoids. High-dose fish oil also increases the production of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone in your brain, which allows you to adapt to stress more effectively.
- Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that the brain produces from tryptophan contained in foods such as clams, oysters, escargots, octopus, squids, banana, pineapple, plum, nuts, milk, turkey, spinach, and eggs. Functions of serotonin include the regulation of sleep, appetite and impulse control. Increased serotonin levels are related to mood elevation. Diet rich in carbohydrates can relieve depression and elevate mood in disorders such as carbohydrate craving obesity, pre-menstrual syndrome and seasonal affective disorder.
- Stabilizing insulin levels will reduce the output of cortisol (which is often released in response to decreased blood sugar levels).
- It helps to add a delay between the urge to eat and actually eating. That gives you time to check in with how you’re feeling and why you want to eat?
- When you get the urge to eat a cookie out of sadness or boredom, remember that you have the option to wait it out. “Saying to yourself ‘I’ll have it later’ gives the impulse time to pass,” even if it doesn’t, successfully delaying the snack helps you feel more in control. Wear a rubber band around your wrist, and snap it whenever you reach for the jelly beans it’s a cue to not eat.
- Research findings show that individuals in negative moods will still make food choices influenced by temporal construal which suggests that trying to focus on something other than the present can reduce the consumption of indulgent foods. When you’re tempted to snack for emotional reasons, try moving instead. A quick burst of activity refreshes you and moving is a proven stress-buster. You’ve replaced the urge to eat with something else.
- The relationship between food and mood in individuals is complex and depends on the time of day, the type and macronutrient composition of food, the amount of food consumed, and the age and dietary history of the subject.Furthermore, circadian rhythms influence our energy levels and performance throughout the day. “Early birds” feel most productive the first part of the day and their food choices become particularly important during lunch and throughout the afternoon. “Night Owls” feel most energetic later in the day and should pay attention to their breakfast choices as they can increase or decrease energy levels and influence cognitive functioning. If you are an evening person and you skip breakfast, your cognitive performance might be impaired. A large breakfast rich in protein, however, could improve your recall performance but might impair your concentration.
In the final analysis, your emotions and your immune system are intertwined in a complex orchestration. As you begin to understand how emotions stem from hormonal communication, you will have a starting point to develop dietary strategies to improve emotional control. The “mind-body” connection really becomes the “mind-body-diet” connection, and dietary regulation should become your primary tool to improve emotional control. Conversely, the wrong diet (especially one deficient in Essential Fatty Acids and rich in Carbohydrates) is your passport to emotional chaos. The choice is yours.