Emotional eating: what’s fuelling our food choices?

Emotional eating: what’s fuelling our food choices?

Why do intelligent people poison themselves with food?

With the rapid and out-of-control rise of obesity today, more focus is being placed on what causes people to become obese in the first place. Clearly food is an issue here but just what is it about food and our relationship with it that is going so very wrong? A topic in the spotlight at the moment is the subject of ‘emotional eating’ – looking at the reasons why we overeat or eat things that just aren’t good for us.

Comfort, reward, stress-relief or a desire to distract ourselves can all be triggers behind eating emotionally. Most of us can relate to having eaten, or more aptly binged, to try and numb feeling down, despondent, hurt, angry or frustrated, to name but a few conditions in the emotional spectrum . . . and then there’s eating as a reward or to ‘celebrate’ a certain occasion.

But just how often are we reaching for the cupboard or fridge door out of an emotional reaction to something and what effect is this having on our bodies? And similarly, what is really triggering us to buy the foods we do when we go shopping...

Food in essence is very simple – we need it to physically nourish our body, but in reality the majority of us use it for anything but this . . . every one of us has a relationship with food and most are in need of some serious marriage counselling!

How we are with ourselves, how we live and express throughout our day, all lead up to the choices we make around food.

Emotional eating is a symptom, an outcome of choices that we have made prior to the moment of the binge or indulgence. When we find ourselves at the fridge/freezer or cupboard door there have been multiple steps leading up to that moment.

What if:

  • Some foods for us are linked with memories, e.g. a certain food that a family member or friend used to give us or eat with us, or something that we were rewarded with as a child. And so we reach for it when we want to be comforted?

  • When we’re feeling stressed out, anxious or overwhelmed we turn to food to try and take the edge off things, using it as a distraction from feeling what is really going on within ourselves?

  • We reach for food when we’re tired to try and feel good again or get an energy boost when really we just need to rest or recognise that maybe there was something in the way we were doing things or relating to others that was draining us?

  • We eat to numb an emotion that we’re holding onto from an earlier situation e.g. frustration, hurt or anger from a disagreement, rather than resolve it?

  • We use food to dull, to hold back and to numb what we are feeling and all that we are aware of?

In all of these situations there is a disconnect, a moment where we choose to take ourselves further away from our essence and deeper into emotion, even though we think we are numbing it.

And so the first place to look to rein in emotional eating is to re-connect with our innermost and allow ourselves to be more aware of what’s going on inside of us. Building connection with ourselves, developing our self-awareness and honesty of what we are actually feeling and choosing empowers us to make clearer and more nourishing food choices. And this goes for the amounts as well as the types of foods that we eat. There is no one prescription for all; we all have different bodies, lives, activity levels and so differing requirements. The one thing we can be sure of though, is that:

Our body is our best and truest marker for what we need to eat and not eat.

It’s not about perfection or going on a rigid diet, but being aware of the energy behind why we are going for food: is it to feed an emotion… or to truly nourish us? From being open to re-connect within, with our innermost we can develop the clarity to live in a way that makes us want to choose what to eat to truly support our bodies and being.

Filed under

EmotionsStressBehaviourOver eatingEating disorderWeight loss

  • By Fiona Pierce, BSc Hons (Herbal Medicine). MNIMH, Medical Herbalist and Practitioner of Universal Medicine Therapies

    I love delving into what is playing out in life on an energetic level and relating it back to our everyday living with simplicity and practicality.

  • Photography: Leonne Sharkey, Bachelor of Communications

    For Leonne photography is about relationships, reflection and light. She is constantly amazed by the way a photo can show us all we need to know