Food and emotions are closely intertwined. Our taste buds and smelling senses are some of the most powerful memory association channels we have. In fact, the psychological connections to smell and taste are so strong that corporations use them for marketing. Ever walked through a furniture store and notice the smell of warm cookies? Many have a corporately sponsored small cookie oven in which they bake fresh cookies all day. Psychological tests have been done experimenting the productivity in children when they smell warm cookies (and can eat them) or when they have snacks like carrots. The differences are astonishing and useful. Even large multinational corporations with theme parks use targeted sensory marketing to draw crowds to a food court or food stand. When it is jokingly said that we get to one another’s hearts through our stomachs, the science behind that is not far off.
Emotional eating can be problematic for some. “Addiction swapping” drug addiction or alcoholism for eating is a common occurrence in early recovery. Food can bring people the same pleasure that illicit substances can. Sugar, for example, has been proven to act similarly in the brain as drugs like cocaine. The brain deeply associates memories of pleasure with memories of food because the two are intertwined in sensory information.
Stopping the habit of emotional eating starts with mindfulness. To start, try practicing awareness when it comes to your food choices. Begin by noticing when you get hungry. Is it a certain hour during the day? Is there a lapse at work, are you stuck in traffic? Also try to notice how hungry you get in accordance to what is going on. Perhaps you had a stressful conversation with a family member and you’re suddenly having severe cravings for food. Once you are aware of these unconscious patterns, you will not be able to ignore them. You’ll have an opportunity to explore them and contemplate them more thoroughly. If you eat when you are experiencing uncomfortable emotions, you can mindfully choose healthy snacks or learn to let the feelings pass without eating emotionally.
Overeating can cause health complications affecting the heart, the gastrointestinal system, and mood. Balance is a key part of recovery which encompasses mind, body, and spirit.
The Center for Life Change helps loved ones faithfully restore balance to their lives. Through recovering in our intensive outpatient treatment program for substance abuse, there is no more need to mask, hide, or run for emotions. Be prepared to live your life fully. Call us today for more information on how your healing can start with us. (951) 775-4000.