Emotions are closely related to eating. They are involved in the decisions we make about what and whenever to consume. However, eating is intricately intertwined with the emotions we have after having a meal. Eating specific types of foods can produce temporary happiness, guilt or even euphoria. The bond between food and emotion was contemplated for years and years. For example, Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, postulates we now have six different tastes, ranging from sweet to pungent. Each of these tastes would have an alternative effect not merely on our physical bodies, and on our state of mind. Sweet brings calmness and induces love and tenderness. Pungent taste, on the other hand, promotes actions and makes the mind alert. By the way, having too much of any particular taste would cause serious side effects, so you shouldn't believe that eating a great deal of chilli can help you stay focused on that report.
Simply what does the Western science say about the relationship between emotions as well as food we eat? Is there indeed a connection between the field of physical nutrients as well as the realm of short lived experiences we call emotions?
Food cravings and emotional eating
The recent technology (fMRI) has allowed scientists to take a good look at inner workings with the brain underneath the conditions of intense food cravings. It is often found that brain areas accountable for emotions are actively engaged in the mediation of signals associated with food craving. Especially, negative emotions that stimulate impulsive food cravings are:
fear (insecurity, general anxiety, panic disorders)
tension (stress, frustration, impatience)
and shame (low self-esteem, guilt).
Some pun apparently intended, these four are now and again called "FATS" feelings (an acronym produced from the categories above). Nevertheless, other feeling might also influence eating behaviour, this also doesn't concern negative emotions exclusively. Quite to the contrary, positive emotions also have an impact on food consumption and food cravings. These effects are (a bit of an easy guess these times) of positive nature according to our food behaviours.
Medical investigation has shown that emotions such as 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, along with the emotional response to the foodstuffs consumed, selecting specific foods (e.g. good for carbohydrates, salts or protein), and items like the way of chewing and eating speed. Finally, significant effects happen to be demonstrated in relation to the share of nutrients ingested (!), in addition to overall metabolic process and digestion. The connection between emotions and the digestive process goes also for other feelings, that are looked at as being less intensive and much more long-term, such since the previously mentioned low self-esteem.
Research on human subjects has demonstrated that positive and negative feelings could possibly be profoundly different in their effects on food-intake. Negative emotions (the FATS family) are likely to increase energetic food usage, 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 increased consumption of junk food. Interestingly, negative emotions may also be associated with decreased gratification derived from eating. However, joy, cheerfulness as well as other positive emotions tend to increase the overall pleasantness of food. Most of all, positive states of mind automatically promote better eating behaviours, including a choice of healthier foods.
Different intensity provokes different effects
Aside from the "valence" of emotions (positive vs. negative), the power of the emotional state can also be important in determining the effect on eating, including food craving. For instance, high arousal emotions, for example fear or anger, suppress eating, which can be explained by incompatible emotional responses please do not think about this as your diet option, though).
If we consider emotions which have low intensity, like boredom or sadness, their effect usually involves increased eating, although the exact mechanism of causality of this effect differs combined with motivation to eat. As an example, in the example of individuals who diet (restrained eaters) the rise in food consumption is related to weakening from the cognitive charge of behaviour because of negative emotions.
It seems that the ancient yogis were right regarding the emotional effects of food, despite the fact that they appear to have neglected to prove their theory statistically. Food-related motions are strong determinants of which foods we have been choosing to eat. Therefore, try take into consideration something positive the next time there is a meal. In fact, it's not all in the mind.