Your Psychological Food Relationship and Your Health

Your physical food relationship is based on your eating habits and food preference, while your psychological food relationship is related to how you think about food and its effect on your weight and body image.

Your psychological food relationship begins to dominate when you succumb to eating to satisfy your appetite instead of your hunger, which is a physical need to supply your body with nutrients.

Your appetite, not your hunger, is in control when you decide to eat a to-die-for dessert even though you have just finished eating a hearty meal. Indulging your appetite to satisfy your eating pleasure rather than your physical hunger is an unhealthy psychological food relationship.

What make you form a psychological food relationship?

You may remember a pleasant experience with a specific food, thereby triggering your appetite. In addition, your emotions, positive or negative, can trigger your appetite. For example, an occasion for celebration may induce you to indulge your appetite and eat for sheer pleasure; isolation, loneliness, and depression may lead you to overeating.

It must be understood that self-defeating thoughts and unhealthy eating behaviors only perpetuate unhealthy emotions and bring on another food-addiction episode, thereby forming a vicious circle of uncontrollable eating. Unless you recognize and acknowledge the trigger, which is often the emotion itself, you will continue to overeat.

So, how do you resolve your problem of having an unhealthy psychological food relationship?

Seek a positive solution to your negative emotion, instead of comforting yourself with food. Admittedly, it is easier said than done.

If you are bored, you would most likely keep on telling yourself that you are bored until you eventually become part of your belief system; it is like a self-fulfilling prophesy. To keep yourself occupied, you begin to eat for the pleasure of it. However, the pleasure soon dissipates, and you become bored again. Remember, comfort food is never comforting. To alleviate the boredom, you resort to eating. Before you know it, you have become a food addict who has developed an unhealthy psychological food relationship.

The solution to the problem is to find something to do other than eating to overcome your boredom. Of course, that requires some discipline and determination.

In addition to boredom, another common emotional trigger of overeating is anger. You may be angry with yourself or with someone else. Anger is a response to fear, frustration or pain. You unwittingly use food to suppress your emotion. After indulging yourself with food, you may become frustrated with yourself for overeating, and you may end up eating more to deal with the emotion of frustration, and thus forming a vicious circle of emotional eating. Do not use food to distract yourself from feelings of anger; instead, learn to deal with your anger head-on. Never hold in anger because it will turn back on yourself. Neither should you internalize anger, for it may lead to depression. The key is to release your anger instead of suppressing or ignoring it.

Other than boredom and anger, stress is another food-addiction trigger. Contemporary life is stressful, and part of the stress stems from within yourself. Life stressors can initiate your emotional appetite, and thus creating an environment for overeating. Once you respond to stress by overeating or giving up on yourself through self-defeating behavior, you are allowing yourself to develop an unhealthy psychological food relationship.

The solution to the problem of stress-related food addiction is to identify your stressors and change the way you respond to them. Remember, the stressors are always out there, and it is the way you respond to them that makes a difference in your life.

Did you know that fear is also an emotional trigger of unhealthy food addiction?

Fear could be an underlying emotion that precipitates your unhealthy eating behavior. You might be afraid of eating a normal amount of food out of fear of getting fat. Or you might be afraid of not reaching your weight loss goal. Your subconscious fear often turns you into a food addict. Remember, some food addicts are not overweight, but they are so obsessed with their body image that they form an unhealthy relationship with food. They incessantly count fat grams and calories, and they weight themselves all the time.

The only way to change your unhealthy food relationship is to change the way you think about your body image. If you are a woman and a perfectionist, you will always be unhappy with your weight and body image, and you will have an increased risk for developing an eating disorder during your lifetime. Remember, your self-worth should be tied up with who you are, not with what you see in the reflected mirror, which is often grossly distorted.

From time to time, we all eat for emotional reasons. However, emotional eating becomes a problem when it interferes with your health and well-being. Improving your psychological food relationship may prevent emotional eating from developing into an eating disorder.

Copyright (c) 2007 Stephen Lau