Emotions are closely related to eating. They take part in the decisions we make about what and when to eat. Alternatively, eating is intricately intertwined with all the emotions we now have after having a meal. Eating specific sorts of foods can produce temporary happiness, guilt and even euphoria. The bond between food and emotion was contemplated for hundreds of years. For instance, Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, postulates that you have six different tastes, which range from sweet to pungent. All these tastes can have a different effect not simply on our physical bodies, but also on our state of mind. Sweet brings calmness and induces love and tenderness. Pungent taste, on the other hand, promotes motion and makes the mind alert. Furthermore, having too much of any particular taste would cause serious unwanted effects, so please don't imagine that eating a great deal of chilli will assist you to stay focused on that report.
Exactly what does the Western science say concerning the relationship between emotions and the food we eat? Can there be indeed an association between the field of physical nutrients and also the realm of short lived experiences we call emotions?
Food cravings and emotional eating
The recent technology (fMRI) has allowed scientists to take a look at inner workings of the brain under the conditions of intense food cravings. It's been found that brain areas responsible for emotions are actively taking part in the mediation of signals related to food cravings. Particularly, negative emotions that stimulate impulsive being hungry are:
fear (insecurity, general anxiety, panic disorders)
tension (stress, frustration, impatience)
and shame (low self-esteem, guilt).
Some pun apparently intended, these four are sometimes called "FATS" thoughts (an acronym made from the categories above). Nevertheless, other feeling can also influence eating behaviour, which doesn't concern negative emotions exclusively. Quite on the contrary, positive emotions also have an effect on food consumption and food cravings. These effects are (a bit of an easy guess these times) of positive nature in respect to the food behaviours.
Medical investigation indicates that emotions for instance anger, fear, sadness, and joy have substantial effects on eating patterns during the whole process of ingestion. The influence includes the first motivation to eat, as well as the emotional response to the foodstuffs consumed, the choice of specific foods (e.g. good for carbohydrates, salts or protein), and items like the way of chewing and eating speed. Finally, significant effects have been exhibited in relation to the share of nutrients ingested (!), and also overall metabolism and digestion. The relationship between emotions and the digestive process goes also for other feelings, which are thought of as being less intensive and more long-term, such as the previously mentioned low self-esteem.
Research on human subjects has demonstrated that positive and negative feelings might be profoundly different inside their effects on food-intake. Negative emotions (the FATS family) tend to increase energetic food intake, expressed as non-discriminated eating in irregular patterns. They are recognized to correlate with eating as mechanism to cope with negative emotional states. Additionally, negative emotions are responsible for the improved consumption of processed foods. Interestingly, negative emotions will also be associated with decreased gratification based on eating. Conversely, joy, cheerfulness and other positive emotions often increase the overall pleasantness of food. Most significantly, positive states of mind automatically promote better eating behaviours, including the choice of healthier foods.
Different intensity provokes different effects
Aside from the "valence" of emotions (positive vs. negative), the power of the emotional state is also important in determining the consequence on eating, including food craving. As an illustration, high arousal emotions, for example fear or anger, suppress eating, which may be explained by incompatible emotional responses please do not think about this as your diet option, though).
If we consider emotions that have low intensity, such as boredom or sadness, their effect usually involves increased eating, although the exact mechanism of causality of the effect differs along with the motivation you can eat. As an example, in the case of individuals who diet (restrained eaters) the rise in food consumption is associated with weakening of the cognitive control of behaviour due to negative emotions.
It seems that the ancient yogis were right in regard to the emotional results of food, despite the fact that they appear to have neglected to prove their theory statistically. Food-related motions are strong determinants which foods we are choosing to consume. Consequently, try to consider something positive next time you have a meal. In the end, it isn't all in the mind.