I know you’ve heard of emotional eating, and I bet your bottom dollar that you immediately think of it in a bad light. I imagine you’ve heard “emotional” and associated that poorly, so of course anything after “emotional” surely cannot be a good thing. Right? Wrong! I am telling you today, emotional isn’t a bad word, and neither is emotional eating!
Before we get far into talking about why emotional eating isn’t all that bad, I want to tell you a bit more about emotional eating, what it is and how it got that name. I find that all too often when I hear folks say “emotional eating, they are usually referring to the negative parts of it and attributing it to be this forbidden thing.
Emotional eating is when you are driven to eat foods based on your emotions at the moment. In that moment you are eating your feelings. This is the picture we are typically given–arrive home from work after a tough day with your boss and you lay down on the couch to watch a funny movie with a large tub of ice cream in your hand. Before you know it, you have mindlessly eaten the entire tub. Many of us have been there, ice cream or not, we have engaged in this kind of mindless eating after a tough time. But consider this scenario that is also emotional eating, but seldom talked about. You’ve just won a contest with your girlfriends, and you all decide to go to brunch to celebrate, and while at brunch you order a large meal and mindlessly eat the entire thing. That is also emotional eating.
Your emotions aren’t always bad! Being emotional isn’t necessarily a bad thing also. You can be emotional and be filled with emotions of joy. So when something great in your life happens and you reach for a cookie to celebrate, that isn’t bad. Our relationship with food is an emotional one. We process emotions in our brain, and the hormones and chemicals production responsible for those feel good, and not so good emotions, start in our gut. There is a mind-body connection with food. Our gut produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter that includes regulating sleep and appetite and mediating moods. The inner workings of our digestive systems (gut system) don’t just help us digest food, they also guide our emotions. And our emotions love to be given food.
All that said, emotional eating didn’t get a bad rap for no reason. Emotional eating can be a problem if eating is your only method of coping, or if you are constantly only using food to numb yourself from feeling and processing your emotions. For instance, if all you ever do when you have a bad day is eat instead of perhaps going for a walk, or venting to a friend then you have an unbalanced relationship with food. The same could be said about always celebrating with food.
The tough part is our culture operates this way. We grow up in this… remember class pizza parties because everyone did well on a test? Remember being given a cookie in exchange for your crocodile tears? We’re kind of conditioned to have this relationship with food, and again, not terribly bad. But not all that great as well if the only relationship we have with food is an emotional one. Food is there to also provide fuel for the body as we grow strong and healthy. It is necessary that we have food, so in many cases, our relationship with food is also based on survival and necessity. At some point, we got a bit fancy with food and as our brains got smarter we started to see other factors of our relationship with food. Again, nothing wrong with that! You are meant to have a relationship with food because it is a natural thing. You are meant to have an emotional relationship with food, and to often engage in emotional eating!
As usual, I always dig a bit deeper on my Instagram page as my blog articles are meant to be an opener to the topic. So head on over to my IG page for the series on Emotional Eating!