What are Psychological Influences on Eating?
Psychological influences are the emotional and mental thought patterns which affect your eating habits and food choices. These psychological influences can manifest themselves in many different ways. For example, you may associate certain food with specific emotions. You may enjoy eating chocolate because it makes you feel happy, or you might enjoy a glass of wine every evening because it gives you added confidence. These are just some examples of psychological influences and how they can affect eating habits.
So certain foods are associated with certain moods and emotions?
As strange as it sounds, the answer is yes! The term ‘comfort eating’ is a testament to this theory. It is a well known fact that when people feel sad or depressed, they often turn to food to make themselves feel better. This food tends to be of the junk variety; items such as chocolate, cakes, biscuits, fizzy juice and other calorie rich foods are commonly eaten to comfort those who are suffering from low mood or depression. Certain foods which are associated with positive emotions can be used to try and compensate for everyday difficulties in life as individuals strive to feel happier about themselves and their circumstances.
Isn’t chocolate supposed to make you happy?
In a way senses, yes. Chocolate is associated with endorphins and other feel good chemicals which affect in the brain. This, however, does not warrant eating copious amounts of chocolate with the intention of achieving never-ending happiness! This will only lead to long term health problems, such as weight gain and dietary problems. There isn’t one single food which can make all your problems better and a balanced diet is a far better approach to long term health and happiness.
What circumstances can lead to ‘comfort eating.’
Comfort eating can be the result of many different personal issues and circumstances. Relationship problems, unhappy marriages, confidence issues or mental health problems can all contribute towards the likelihood of comfort eating taking place. It is down to the individual and their unique attitude and thoughts towards certain types of food.
Which types of mental health issues can have psychological effects on my eating?
There is a large variety of mental health issues which can affect your relationship with food. Some of the following disorders have been known to impact upon a person’s relationship with food and their ability to eat healthily.
- Depression/Low mood
- Eating Disorders
- Psychotic Disorders (Schizophrenia)
All of these afflictions can have negative psychological influences on your eating habits and the way in which you associate certain foods and emotions.
I’ve been eating unhealthily lately. Does this mean I have an underlying mental health issue?
Not at all! Psychological influences on food are wide ranging; they can stem from minor, everyday issues, to much deeper issues. You may find that some small relationship worries or confidence issues could be the catalyst for unusual patterns of unhealthy eating. These unusual patterns should only give real cause for concern if you are experiencing other negative thoughts and feelings at the same time. Most people will be able to put these poor eating habits down to some hiccups in their day-to-day life, but if you are unsure in anyway, you should immediately seek advice from a doctor or health professional.
I suffer from low mood and depression. How can I achieve a better relationship with eating habits?
Mental health issues and low mood does not have to mean a bad diet! In fact, many individuals who suffer from depression manage to maintain a healthy diet which includes fruit, vegetables and other healthy products. It is important to consult with your doctor before making any long-term dietary changes. It may also be advisable to consult with a nutritionist, who can assist with eating habits and patterns which will benefit low mood and other mental health issues.
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