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Psychology and Nutrition: the importance of emotional feeding

Psychology and Nutrition: the importance of emotional feeding

November 21, 2022

What we eat not only affects how we feel, but how we feel also affects the way we eat .

It is for this reason that there is a branch of psychology specialized in caring for the way we eat. Usually receives the name of Psychology of Nutrition , or Food Psychology .

Psychology and nutrition: a necessary tandem for our health

Although many people do not believe it, psychology can be an important to improve adherence to a diet, either to improve body image or to control excessive food intake in cases of overweight, as there are psychological variables related to success when it comes to following a diet.

Therefore, psychologists are professionals who can provide their services for individuals to make behavioral changes or changes in lifestyle. There are tools (such as good planning, avoidance of stimuli, etc.) that can be beneficial to carry out a successful dietary plan.

A psychologist can be a great help in the fight against obesity, because the emotional aspects are very important at the time of achieving a permanent change in the customs that affect food. In addition, in serious cases of eating disorders , the psychologist is an indispensable figure for the correct treatment of pathologies.

Eating with the palate: a pleasant behavior

Many people do not eat based on their nutritional needs, but it is the palate that motivates them to eat food without control. This may seem like an everyday act, but can be very harmful to health if you abuse food with low nutritional value and a high content of substances harmful to the body (such as fats trans).

Abusing the pleasurable act of eating, not only can make us feel more tired and constantly look for more food, but can cause serious health problems. Eating with the palate is a behavior that has to do with pleasure and, therefore, comes into play the reward system, mediated by dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that actively participates in the reinforcement of pleasurable behaviors such as sex or drug use.

Emotions affect our diet: emotional feeding

In many occasions people know very well the pedagogy of food, the problem is that they do not adhere to a dietary plan for many reasons: lack of motivation, unrealistic objectives, beliefs of negative self-efficacy, exposure to interfering stimuli and, above all, a low mood .

The relationship emotions-nutrition It is clear, because in times of emotional instability we are more likely to consume fatty foods. This is not positive for weight control and causes excess fat in the diet. When we use diet to calm our emotional state, this is called emotional feeding.

The psychological and emotional variables are very important to be successful in the diet, since for many people it is not an easy way. On the other hand, we must understand human behavior and know that when we are anxious or have emotional problems, many individuals respond with large food intakes. In addition, stress also causes mood problems that influence dietary intake.

Depression and binge eating

In severe cases such as depression, depressed individuals often increase their intake of food disproportionately. According to him Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) During the course of depression, episodes of overeating may appear but without loss of control (Something that does happen in binge eating disorder).

The reason why individuals with depression or emotional problems often go in search of food to feel better and calm their mood, is because many foods include tryptophan, an amino acid that causes the release of serotonin (low levels of serotonin they are associated with depression and obsession).

The lack of serotonin causes different negative effects on the organism, such as anguish, sadness or irritability. Since the body does not produce tryptophan, it must be obtained from the diet. Therefore, foods rich in this amino acid act as natural antidepressants.

There are several studies that relate serotonin with a greater sense of well-being, relaxation, better sleep, higher self-esteem, greater concentration and a better state of mind. In addition, serotonin has an important function in the brain since it establishes the balance between other neurotransmitters such as dopamine or norepinephrine (noradrenaline).These neurotransmitters are important since they are related to anguish, anxiety or eating disorders.

Foods to improve our wellbeing

Below is a list of Foods rich in Tryptophan :

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Milk
  • cheese
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Soy
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Chia seeds

Finally, regarding serotonin, Low levels of this neurotransmitter are associated with obsessive behaviors and binge eating disorder .

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, explains that researchers from the USDA / ARS Child Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, and the Children's Hospital of Texas, in the United States, demonstrated that The hormone estrogen can increase serotonin production to inhibit binge eating.

Psychology applied to nutrition

As we have commented, there is a relationship between psychology and nutrition . The call "Psychology of Nutrition"It deals with the study and application of these phenomena both in their normal conditions and in those that occur in the pathology.The quality of the link between the psyche, social, emotional and educational factors, and nutrition, are essential for the healthy development of any person.

In the Western world, and due to the existing socioeconomic system, we have been educated to consume aesthetics. This causes pathologies or eating disorders such as Anorexia or Bulimia if you do not work to minimize the effects of the culture of the image. This need for exchange between disciplines such as Nutrition and Mental Health, makes necessary the contribution of psychology for a healthy development of individuals.

For example, the problem of obesity is not only to lose weight, In many cases there are certain aspects involved that must be addressed and that not only have to do with food . An individual who has been obese since childhood has never had a representation of his lean body. Any change that occurs will not only affect your weight, but it will have consequences on your identity. Psychology, therefore, plays an important role in the well-being of people, and nutrition is an important aspect for the full development of an individual.

The surprisingly dramatic role of nutrition in mental health | Julia Rucklidge | TEDxChristchurch (November 2022).

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