The psychology of eating is a relatively new field that seeks to understand our relationship with food. Some researchers believe that the body metabolizes food differently according to our thoughts and as a response to stress, either imagined or real. Some believe we actually absorb nutrients more effectively when we’re in a positive frame of mind.
In other words, thoughts, senses and emotions such as guilt and shame are related to physiological responses that include not only appetite for food, but thirst, sex drive, body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate.
Food, Emotions and Disordered Eating
Food is a fundamental human activity that does much more than fill our tummies and fuel our bodies. Eating affects how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Overeating, emotional eating or eating too little can all negatively affect our health and wellbeing.
Eating is often a positive experience that is an integral part of nearly every culture. Our feelings about food and eating are influenced by many factors, including our evolutionary and genetic makeup. Additionally, we are influenced by what our families ate and what we enjoyed as children, by social eating habits of our friends and other people we spend time with, and by what foods are preferred in certain cultures. Of course, every person has specific preferences for various tastes and textures.
Eating problems arise when food is used as a coping strategy to manage negative feelings such as anxiety, boredom or stress. Instead of coping with difficult emotions in healthy ways, the feelings are stuffed down with food, which makes us feel better – for a short time.