Eating Our Feelings: The Link Between Emotions and Diet

Eat What We Feel

Whatever our relationship with food may be, it’s also a reflection of our life. Like almost everything else these days, eating is not as simple as you may think. Since your brain requires constant supplies of fuel, and reacts to certain substances in food, it just makes sense that the food we offer our brain can hugely affect our brain, both positively and negatively.

There are different types of eating and these types are linked closely to other factors such as levels of stress, levels of happiness or sadness, if you feel lonely or not, and even if you’re feeling sleepy or rearing to go. The more we understand this relationship the more successful we’ll be at healthy eating, dieting, and food management. Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at different types of eating, the link between eating and emotions, eating disorders, etc.

Let’s start with reviewing our brains on food and looking at the four main types of eating.

A Brief Review

Free radicals are the waste, also referred to as “oxidative stress,” produced when the body uses oxygen. This waste can cause damage to our cells. When we eat high-quality foods containing high amounts of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants, we’re protecting our brain from this oxidative stress.

Conversely, eating poor quality foods, such as processed or refined foods, affects your brain negatively. For example, foods with high sugar content can impede your body’s regulation of insulin, promote inflammation and increase oxidative stress. Research supports a correlation between diets high in refined sugar and impaired brain function. Studies have also shown clear links between diets with high sugar contents and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

The Four Types of Eating

Basically there are four types of eating:

  • Fuel Eating
  • Fun Eating
  • Fog Eating
  • Storm Eating

Fuel Eating

Fuel eating is exactly what it sounds like – eating for fuel. This is eating the foods that your body needs to function. It is clean eating – eating whole, natural foods that are not processed or are minimally processed. Fuel eating should make up at least 80% of your eating.

Fun Eating

Again, self-explanatory. Fun eating is just that – eating for fun. This will include foods that do not necessarily provide nutrients as much as they provide taste or experience. Snack foods such as chips, pastries, candy, etc. and drinks such as sodas, juices and alcoholic drinks are more for sensory effects than nutritious. The key to enjoying these types of foods/drinks without overdoing them is simple: enjoy every bite and every sip. This will actually help you to go slow and to pace yourself, limiting these foods and/or drinks to once or twice a week.

Fog Eating

We’ve all experienced it. We’re studying or watching TV or even driving and before we know it we’ve consumed an entire bag of chips or a big candy bar. This type of unconscious eating is called fog eating and it’s bad. You want to never fog eat! Empty calories, excessive calories, lots of sugar or fat or caffeine – none of this is good for you. Find a way to catch yourself when you start, or even before you start, to eat while concentrating on other things.

Storm Eating

One main characteristic of storms is being uncontrollable, We cannot control rain, winds, lightning, or snow, and with storm eating, we feel like we cannot control our eating either. The good news is we can. It’s not easy, it may take outside help and a lot of determination and patience, but we can control what we put in our mouths and how much of it and how often. This type of eating usually comes with deeper issues that require professional help of some type.

Emotional Eating

Although there are different types of eating, they all fall under one umbrella: emotional eating. Emotional eating is referred to as “eating our feelings” and is caused by psychological and physiological factors.

Some examples of emotional eating are:

  • Eating chocolate when feeling depressed
  • Polishing off an entire bag of chips when feeling lonely
  • Drinking caffeinated beverages when feeling tired
  • Drinking alcohol when feeling shy, sad, happy, nervous

The irony is the very emotions we’re eating to address can be caused or intensified by the foods we’re eating to address those emotions. It’s a frustrating cycle and can actually become a harmful one as well.

Acccording to Azriel ReShel for Uplift Connect:

Scientific studies have demonstrated the link between the desire for a specific food and the need for certain micronutrients. These micronutrients are used by the body to regulate our emotions, mood or physical conditions. One of the most popular foods people crave is chocolate. Chocolate contains the chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that our brain creates when we are feeling the emotion of romantic love.

Doreen Virtue, a researcher of eating disorders and the psychological factors of food craving, states that there are four emotions that make up the core of emotional eating (FATS):

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Tension
  • Shame

Unresolved emotional issues result in unresolved eating issues. Cravings can come from emotional factors, such as in the previously given examples of eating our feelings, and can come from physical factors as well. Sometimes we are craving substances our body is lacking, for example, a diet lacking in certain vitamins or nutrients will cause certain food cravings.

A Clear Link

We’ve seen that there is a clear, established link between our emotions and our diet and we’ve looked at a few examples. Next week we’ll take a deeper look at the research addressing this relationship.

Til then, eat well, be well!


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Post by Andrea Rogers