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10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Food and Eating

The psychology behind food and eating is a fascinating topic. There are many psychological connections that affect eating habits. This includes everyone and is something we may all be able to recognize in ourselves. Smart and balanced food choices lead to a healthy lifestyle. When these choices are made, it is easier to have control over eating disorders, compulsive eating habits, weight gain, depression, and much more. While for some people it is easy to understand that we eat to satisfy hunger and want to maintain energy levels, this is not as easy for some people’s psychological make up.    For some people, eating is a crutch when life is not so good. For others, eating is the biggest challenge they will take on all day. Our point here…food and eating is one of the most psychologically driven activities we do multiple times a day. Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of food and eating!  

Our food affects how we feel.

  Good food can be the key to a happy life. When we eat the right food with the nutrients that our bodies long for, we are able to be the best version of ourselves. While this is not a secret, it may not be commonly thought of as something that actually affects our brains. When we nourish our bodies our energy levels are high, we have a calmness about us. And as you may assume, all of these things promote a better mood! Our food and how we feel mentally is directly correlated.   

Our body image can affect our mental health.

  As we grow and as life takes us through its ups and downs, our bodies change. We change with age, lifestyle, eating habits, emotional stability, etc. And when our bodies change, so does the mental image we have of ourselves. Part of eating healthy food and controlling healthy eating habits is about our physical body. It’s about maintaining or working towards a body that promotes high self esteem. When this is achieved, our mental health is far better. In simple terms…loving the skin we’re in can make us happier!  

Food can be used as a negative coping mechanism. 

Have you ever had your heart broken and then bought a pint of ice cream? Have you ever had a terrible day at work and then ordered mac n cheese for dinner? These are some examples of coping mechanisms that many will consider absolutely reasonable. Unhealthy food makes us feel comfortable and safe. We all know that. However, there is a fine line here. When all of our eating habits are geared towards dispelling sadness or filling a void, this becomes a negative coping mechanism. This becomes a bandaid. It is very easy for food to be used in this way.   

Eating disorders are more common than you may think.

  Eating disorders affect men and women of all ages. This may be most common association that comes to your head when you think of psychology being related to food and eating. People who struggle with eating disorders have usually never had a good relationship with food. This can be for many different reasons but ultimately, their eating habits intensely affect their mental health. Some examples of eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.   

Weight management is psychological.

  Our weight can be altered by the food we consume. It can also be altered by our behaviors and patterns revolving around this food. For those looking to manage their weight, this is a cognitively controlled activity. This means that our brains hold the power for weight management. In order to achieve weight management, we must change our behaviors that are no longer good for us. We also have to understand how we reached the point that made us want to change, appropriately change our mindset around food and eating, and understand that this change is necessary and good for us. Once these psychological steps are taken, it is also our responsibility to monitor ourselves.   

Food can be natural medicine.

  Whole and hearty food can be medicine in and of itself. This is even true for medicines that aid us psychologically. This includes medicines that would typically be prescribed for depression, anxiety, concentration, memory, and more. These foods aren’t anything crazy and they’re definitely not hard to find, but many people don’t know that they are magical when it comes to mental health! Some examples include oily fish, berries, yogurt, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, and beans.   

Our cravings are linked to a neurological desire. 

  A food craving is when we can’t think about anything other than a deep desire for a certain food. Every person experiences these cravings differently. However, these cravings tend to include foods that are high in fats and sugars. Food cravings can be caused by quite a few things, all are psychological. They can be caused by regions of our brains that are associated with memory, pleasure and rewards. They can often be the result of a hormone imbalance. They may be caused by emotional status, most commonly in people who eat for comfort. They can be connected to our nutrient levels and may show us what our diet is lacking.   

Our brains like moderation, balance, and variety.

  Moderation, balance, and variety all align quite well with food and eating habits. When food and eating habits are balanced, mental health can be balanced as well. When we allow ourselves to enjoy food that makes us happy in moderation, we may feel satisfied but not shameful. When we change up our diet and welcome in new flavors, the variety may keep us excited. These three things are all psychological connections to food that for many people can lead to a happy state of mental health.   

Food marketing can confuse our understanding of food and hunger. 

  When you’re hungry…you should eat. There is nothing confusing about that concept. What is confusing, however, is how our brains perceive hunger levels based on the marketing behind the food we eat. For example, in America, portion sizes are far larger than other countries. This may lead to our brains thinking we need far more food than we really do to feel satisfied. This can be related to the commercials we see on tv, the billboards we see while driving, the size of plates and the utensils at the restaurants we go to, and the prices of the items. This is another cognitive connection to food and eating that we may not consider most days.  

A healthy relationship can be a personal mindset.

  Ultimately, food is not just about filling our stomachs. Food and eating is a psychological activity that we all engage in throughout our days. Many experts say that when it comes to food and eating, we must engage our bodies, hearts and souls in the activity. Experts say that finding a relationship with our food is a mindset. This mindset includes eating slower, considering whether you are actually hungry or not, listening to your body when it is full, and recognizing your behaviors and patterns with your food. Who knew that something we have been naturally doing since birth had so many psychological factors and connections?   Related Articles: