Our relationship with food is an emotional one. We don’t eat purely for nourishment. Rather, our eating is often driven by our ever-changing feelings. This is why the human/food relationship is frequently a stressful one.
Food that we use for comfort – chocolate, cakes, crisps, chips – boost the body’s feel-good transmitter, serotonin. The sensation of eating satisfying textures (Pringle, anyone?) along with the blend of fats, carbs and sugars excites our brains and makes us want more. Studies have also shown such food can work as an antidepressant on the brain, reducing stress and anxiety levels.
It’s not surprising we turn to food when we feel bad!
But while we’re trying to make ourselves feel better in the short-term, a diet full of junk food affects our mental health in the long-term. Lack of proper nutrition can also cause mood disorders, which then triggers more cravings for junk food. The worst culprits for this are sugar, caffeine and processed foods.
The key is to separate eating from emotion so we treat food purely as fuel. Challenging, but not impossible. Here’s our top 5 ways:
Being present when you eat, tasting and chewing each mouthful carefully, will make you aware of your feelings as you eat, rather than masking them.
Get rid of trigger foods
If there is a crutch to lean on during weak or stressful moments, you’ll use it. Instead, fill your fridge with nutritious food creating a win/win situation for your mind and body.
Using your non-dominant hand to eat has been shown to break up the automatic hand-to-mouth flow, making you more aware of your eating.
Practice impulse control
Actively saying ‘stop’ to yourself and pausing every few mouthfuls will build up your ability to say no to eating when you’re feeling emotional. Think of it as a workout for impulse control!
Start an eating journal
Tracking your eating habits can help enormously. It will make you aware of your weak points and to see your progress as you develop more control.
My sister does the mindfully eating thing and it's quite weird as she likes to eat with nothing else at all going on. No TV, radio or even book. To be honest, I couldn't stand doing that but seems to keep her happy!
At eating journal totally changed my perspective - I did a whole week and when I looked back I was able to see the times where I was eating for the sake of it rather than for hunger and started to find other things to do in these 'trigger times'. I also never go to the supermarket hungry!