Emotional Eating

Nowadays we live in a world that seems to be going towards the path of ecology, reduction of consumption, pollution, and, in general, economic and social sustainability. In this panorama, people are implementing changes in their lifestyles, to follow a proper diet that does not include the use of junk food and, above all, waste, that go hand in hand with this real evolution.

Several studies, however, have stated that due to the pandemic, there has been an increase of 30% on kids that deal with any type of eating disorder.

Have you ever heard of DCA? 

Eating Disorders have been spreading since the second half of the 1900s as a social epidemic, or rather a cultural disorder, by which they express deep anxieties and unresolved problems.

Over the years, beauty standards have changed and the difficulty of accepting one’s own body has increased, especially among teenagers.  The culture of eating behavior is underestimated and can lead to serious consequences not only on a medical level but also on a psychological and social one. First of all, food is not only a nourishment for survival, but it is also a choice of identity, a regulator of emotions, and a gesture of love. Psychology is not about providing food plans, but it is about understanding what drives an individual to not adopt a healthy lifestyle. More specifically, it deals with the reason why a person eats even when he or she does not physiologically need to or when the individual is not even feeling hungry. 

By hunger, we mean that feeling we get when our body informs us that there is a need for energy. Many times, we do not eat for physiological hunger, but we use food as a solution to our problems.

Emotional eating is a behavior that is assumed when food is given the responsibility to relieve our stress, fill our gaps, but all this often leads to further discomfort, a sense of guilt, a physical situation that degenerates. Often we mistake physical hunger with emotional hunger, but there are some clues that help us to identify and control it. Physical hunger occurs when there is an energy deficit in the body and is, therefore, a signal that requires the introduction of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, to satisfy this need. Emotional hunger comes suddenly and requires specific foods, usually “junk food” or “comfort food”, and pushes the individual to eat in a disordered way. It presents itself as a craving that starts in the head, which goes beyond the sense of satiety and immediately invokes a sense of guilt and judgmental thoughts.

Using food to compensate for negative emotions is an action that can happen sometimes, but it is necessary to understand the frequency, the modalities, and the awareness through which this happens. There is a new practice to increase awareness in these situations and it is called “Mindful Eating”: you choose an object and, whenever the mind starts to travel unrestrained, you bring attention back to it to understand that you can relate to emotions in a controlled way, without being overwhelmed. This practice, therefore, allows us to pay attention not only to what, how much, and when we eat, but also to observe how our states of mind affect our eating habits: the focus is not only on food but on our relationship with it. 

In this context, the role of the psychotherapist is fundamental: the situation is addressed starting from the psycho-body discomfort, to find overall integrity between body and mind and a more considered relationship with emotions.

What develops in the patient is a strong split between body and mind and, in this sense, the therapist accompanies him on a path in which to search for unity between the two, which is found precisely in the emotions, hostile territory for the patient who learns to use it functionally.

The therapist also helps the patient to improve self-esteem and interpersonal relationships, and to build a relationship of alliance with his own body.

Author of the article: Marcella Fiorentino

Translation: Vittoria Mirabelli

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