Food Psychology is the science that demonstrates our relationship with food. To explain and address this relationship, food psychology takes into account our emotions, behaviours, as well as our social context and relationships.
This psychological aspect not only tries to provide answers to eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, bigorexia, etc.), but it also makes room for those issues that are difficult to diagnose, are less important or generate less discomfort in people.
Food Psychology includes compulsive eating, binge eating, food anxiety, body rejection, chronic dieting, and other difficulties related to food and our body. This article mainly addresses emotions that are related to food, compulsive eating and eating habits.
Also, the food psychology offers strategies, concepts, and theories to work positively on our relationship with food. This new approach proposes that food can be seen as a barometer of intimacy, that is, the way we eat is a sample of how much we love each other.
Thanks to the tools offered by food psychology, we can be aware of our beliefs about food and our body. Using this as a starting point, it invites us to build a new relationship between us, our food, and how we eat.
- Food Psychology, Emotions and Food
- Compulsive Eating
- A Question of Food Psychology: Where does the Desire for Sweets come from?
- Food Psychology and Eating Habits
Food Psychology, Emotions and Food
- Have you ever wondered how your emotions influence when eating?
- After a hard day at work, do you binge eat?
- Do you open the fridge every time you feel bored?
- Do you eat quickly sometimes, without conscience, and with anxiety?
- How many times when you feel worried or afraid do you eat to feel relief?
It is quite common that sometimes we take refuge in food to help us calm unpleasant emotions. But when this is our only strategy, and therefore becomes a habit, the health risks can be too high.
Relying entirely on food to fill gaps or avoid feeling emotions can backfire. What was adaptive at a very specific moment in our lives can now bring us many negative consequences, such as weight gain, cholesterol, diabetes, guilt, obsessions, and negative feelings, among others back draws.
We speak of emotional hunger, to refer to maladaptive behaviour, whose engine is emotions. Food becomes a short-term reinforcement to stop feeling stress, anxiety, fear and boredom. After this behaviour, negative feelings appear (guilt, discomfort, etc.), so we turn to food again to feel better. Thus, we create a vicious circle, explained by food psychology, that leads us over and over again to manage emotions in the same way without having the opportunity to build our strategies. That is when the help of an expert professional is essential.
According to food psychology, compulsive eater is a person characterized by consuming large amounts of food with a loss of control during eating. After this excess intake, the person usually feels anguish, sadness, and excessive concern about weight.
People usually feel this experience as an addiction, just as they could have to another substance (tobacco, alcohol, etc.). They use food to escape, take refuge and avoid experiencing unpleasant emotions.
Typically, people who binge eat have a long history of dieting, with recurring failures. Low self-esteem, anxiety, and sadness are typical reasons of compulsive eating. It is important to deal with this type of food psychology problems by asking for help from a specialized nutritionist.
A Question of Food Psychology: Where does the Desire for Sweets come from?
There are reasons why we crave some delicacies, regret them immediately – and still go back to them. We are almost innocent because the preference for sweets is innate.
The desire to eat sweets is similar in most of the people, but they deal with it differently. Some force themselves to give up, others don’t make it to do so.
The desire to taste sweet is in our genes and it has several advantages: It increases the infant’s willingness to drink sweet-tasting breast milk. Later on, riped fruit or other sweets promise quick energy because they contain sugar and calories.
In addition, sweet-tasting food is generally digestible and provides immediate energy. However, as we grow, eating sweets all the time increases the level of blood glucose and create insulin sensitivity. Therefore, our disturbed food psychology can lead us to diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular issues.
The Rewarding Effect
Food gives strength and protection; it reduces fears and ensures survival for a while. Babies already experience this, and this desire and the experience of food as a reward is also visible in the brain processes of adults, as a part of their food psychology. Recent research on food psychology shows that not only emotions are processed in the limbic system of the brain, it also plays a major role in learning and memory. Therefore, sometimes we love to eat a certain food, in memory of someone, or perhaps remembering something. It gives us an immediate mental relaxation or nostalgia.
But how do you ultimately reduce the sugar content? Change your diet completely to sugar-free? It’s more about “understanding the patterns of your eating style,” says Katja Kröller, an expert on food psychology. Therefore, it is not about totally subtracting sugary or savory food, but balancing the diet.
When it comes to a food of our choice, it becomes particularly clear that eating it is a relatively simple way of activating the brain’s pleasure and reward systems.
Eating and even the sight or smell of a delicious meal stimulates the limbic system of the brain and releases the neurotransmitter dopamine.
This activation is connected to the desired experience. The way our food psychology works and the way we think about food can be explained as:
“The piece of chocolate I treat myself to after a hard day is something positive. This may not be ideal from a nutritional point of view, but there is something psychological that is good for me now and that I can enjoy this experience at the moment.”
Food Psychology and Eating Habits
If you generally eat the whole chocolate bar, because you’ve always done it that way, then it’s something that no longer does any good to you. Consequently, it becomes a habit. We then often lose ourselves between reward and renunciation. We enjoy and then regret it at the same time.
However, there are also persistent traps in the interplay of food and emotions (food psychology). Like eating a whole pack of Lays while watching a movie, or eating one more biscuit while talking to your friends. It is imperative to understand these traps by giving concentration to what you are doing and what you are eating.
There is an ongoing interaction between food and emotions. Stress, fear, desire, and joy play a strong role. Only those who recognize their predispositions and imprints can eat sensibly and competently – with enjoyment and health benefits for themselves. One needs to remember that eating is not the only reward, watching a movie, or talking to your friend is a reward in itself. If you are feeling boredom, skip the food, bend your food psychology and take refuge in other positive activities.
Hi, I am Humayun, I hold MS and PhD degrees in Chemical Sciences from Germany. Currently I am working as faculty at the Department of Chemistry, Food Science and Technology, at a Public Sector University. I have immense interest in the fields of Food Science and Sports Nutrition.