Emotional Eating

When we are born, one of the first contacts we have with the world and with our mother is by eating. The act of eating for a baby is a two way relationship that both nourishes the baby with the necessary nutrients to grow and also nourishes the baby with love, sending a feeling of care, a feeling of safety and support. Recent studies done with children and teenagers have shown that this emotional nourishment is very important for their own growth: physically, intellectually and psychologically. Research has concluded that human beings depleted of this sense of affection may not physically grow and develop as well as they should. Our relationship with food is therefore deeply attached to emotional patterns, even though we may not always be aware of this.

Why do we do it?

We do it because food has a direct impact in our system both bringing us body nutrition and emotional nourishment. So when we are stressed or sad or mad it is common that we seek comfort in food. Most of the times we are not even aware of it. We just walk to the fridge and grab whatever is there waiting for us, therefore it is important that we surround yourself with healthy options to minimize the “damage” and also that we eat consciously which means practice mindful eating so that we will savor each bite and consequently eat less and at the same time have more fulfilling and satisfying meals.

I have been through some very insightful information of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and I found that Mind Body Nutrition has focus on how the mind has a profound influence on the body when it comes to the way the body metabolizes food. Which means that Mind Body Nutrition studies the psychophysiology of how digestion, assimilation, calorie burning and all the nutritive aspects of eating are impacted by emotions such as stress, relaxation, thoughts, beliefs, eating rhythm, eating speed or awareness. This basically means that what we eat is as important as the way we eat it, because who we are as eaters directly affects digestion. Therefore it is important to eat healthy, but it is equally important to eat under the optimum physiologic state to receive the full nutritional value of a meal (you can read more on how gut is directly affected by the motional state in Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Dr. Giulia Enders). According to scientific research, stress may have the following impact:

  • De-regulate appetite (driving people to eat more or less, typically more, as people seek out for care and/or nourishment in food)

  • Increase cortisol and insulin which signal weight gain and fat storage (if the body is constantly under stress it means it’s under a flight or fight mode, which means it will tend to accumulate everything you eat and store it preparing you for the worst)

  • Decrease muscle growth

  • Cause digestive upset, kill healthy gut bacteria and cause non proper absorption of the nutrients in the food ingested (a very insightful reading on this subject is The Microbiome Diet: The Scientifically Proven Way to Restore your Gut Health and Achieve Permanent Weight Loss by Dr. Raphael Kellman)

  • Increase unhealthy cholesterol levels

  • Lower thyroid and growth hormone levels

  • Create more susceptibility to food allergies

So clearly stress has a deep impact in our digestion. There are two types of stress: the common stressors that we are mostly aware of (work, life style stress) and stressors related with our way of thinking. It is possible to create stress chemistry (increased heart rate, blood pressure) just by some of the thoughts we nourish ourselves with. This is the reason why Mind Body Nutrition is so powerful: because it actually makes as look at ourselves as a whole and not looking at the digestion as if it was a separate thing of our bodies or minds. The self created stressors can be: guilt about food, shame about the body, judgment about health, just to name a few. Eating psychology works because everyone has a unique relationship with food driven by their beliefs, mindset, emotions, and past.

How can essential oils help?

Essential oils can be used to support your system against stress, against fake appetite (emotional appetite) and also they help your system regulate itself. Plus essential oils smooth digestion and contribute to healthy bacteria, which means they activate parts of the body that will support weight loss. They will also support your emotions and help committing with mindful eating in the long run. The continuous usage of the right essential oils can be the missing piece for a fitness program to sustain the goals you wish to achieve and also to release your digestion from emotional eating patterns.

In the next post I will share the top essential oils to face emotional eating and how to use them.

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