How does one’s gut connect to one’s emotions? This is a question that’s been asked, in so many words, for ages. I’m talking about “mood food.” Simply eating when hungry and stopping when full is, for many, a phenomenon long since forgotten; as ancient a concept as black and white television.
Okay maybe not that ancient, but you get where I’m going with this. Intuitive eating is not in cahoots with our fast-paced, high stress, modern day lifestyle. Food becomes something we slam down between work and the gym, in bustling restaurants with dim lighting and loud music, at home distracted by iPhone and laptop…food is fast becoming an issue for many people. By “issue” I mean anything from obsession to restriction to poor relationship with food to disease by diet to completely misunderstanding one’s own physical dietary needs. There are so many layers of issues around food.
Emotional eating is no different. It’s where the term “comfort food” comes into the picture. Eating for comfort. Eating a food that serves as a reminder of a comforting person, place or time. The notion is actually quite endearing. Food plays a huge role in one’s culture and can truly serve as medicine. The downfall with this endearing concept is that, for many, food can become a numbing agent. This becomes problematic specifically with the modern day easy access to a vast ocean of junk food.
After a bad day, some people will reach for a “comfort food,” and it’s usually not a nourishing meal they remember having as a child. Quite often it’s sweets, heavy meals and empty calories like chips and fast food that come to the table as “mood food.” This creates a toxic spiral because many of these foods are laden with sugar, which creates an immediate spike in insulin, and results in a crash. Sugar is also stored as fat. Emotional junk food eating, or heck, even emotional overeating, will lead to weight gain. This, in turn, leads to decreased self-esteem, depression and, at the core, a bad mood! So, if we create a simple equation, with healthy food we create a healthy mood, correct? Even healthy food can be overeaten so let’s use this as more of a mantra than an equation.
By changing one’s nutrition, one can directly influence one’s happiness. At the core, food is fuel. If you are reading this thinking one’s relationship with food isn’t all that important, just hear me out.
Eating is an activity the average person engages in anywhere from three to seven times a day (I’m a plant based diet advocate and self-professed grazer, so I’m often on the upwards of five to seven healthy meals and snacks per day). That’s anywhere from 1,095 to 2,555 meals per year! That’s a lot of mealtimes, hence a lot of opportunities to feel good or bad about one’s food choices. Imagine how it would feel to drown a bad day in a bag of potato chips and brownie bites…mentally you’d probably feel like crud after, emotionally you’d feel even emptier than you started out feeling, and physically you’d be under a load of stress trying to digest the gut bomb you’d just endured. Now imagine you decided to nourish the beautiful body you inhabit after a hard day with a healthful meal. Our bodies are all vastly different and thrive on very different diets, so just imagine a balanced meal containing a protein, a starch, vegetables, totally bursting with flavor and nutrition. Or even a healthy cacao chia seed pudding, something decadent that nourishes the body from the inside out. Post mealtime you’d likely feel more mentally clear, emotionally satisfied, physically nourished and possibly even energized.
Food has a lot of potential. Just as it’s important to build a safe and comfortable place to sleep, as it’s an activity we spend roughly one third of our lives doing, it’s important to foster a healthy relationship with food. Eating is an activity vital to our survival and it directly dictates to what extent we physically thrive. Food has the power to heal body, quite literally, and it also has the power to harm the body. It has the capacity to make us depressed and it has the capacity to stimulate a very peaceful state. So, the next time you’re jonesing for some “mood food,” consider the mantra with healthy food we create a healthy mood… happy grazing!
Image credited to MindBodyGreen.com