Food and emotions

Have you seen the show Motherland on the BBC?

I watched it recently on Iplayer. Although my children are pretty big now  (I have a daughter who recently turned 13 and a son of 14) the episode about the children’s parties resonated with me. They are such bittersweet affairs. Whether you are hosting or attending, on the whole, parties are stressful. But, it all seems worthwhile when you see that great big beaming smile on your child’s face, right?

Or, so I thought. I mean that smile isn’t a smile of joy it’s a nervousness brought on by the sugar high they are experiencing from all that lovely cake, sweets, pizza and sugary drinks. So, if it’s not the smile on your child’s face that makes the stress of the birthday party work while then what is? After deep thought and reflection, I think it’s the party bag…

You know that bag of goodies we use to quietly coax the kids away from the party and get them into the car without all hell breaking loose.

The one that you all share on the way home as a treat for a job well done.

Upon reflection, my fondest memories of the kid’s parties are of my upturned hand that went behind the seat and had a sweet treat put in on the way home, popping that treat in my mouth was the trigger that told me it was all over and we could go home to relax.

It made me feel good. In essence, I used that treat to alter my mood from highly stressed to something a bit more pleasurable.

We eat food for fun, to give us energy, to supply us with nutrition and culturally we use it to celebrate. We also use it to manage our emotions. Interestingly,  when, where, how and what we eat can be connected to how we feel about ourselves and our lives. 

In this blog, we are going to explore emotional eating. 

Emotional eating questionnaire

So let’s see if there is a connection for you, have a look at the questions below and if you have an emotional connection to food.

  • Do you use food to enhance pleasure? If so, how ?
  • Do you use food to avoid painful feelings, such as loneliness or frustration? After you have eaten the foods do the feelings go? Or does the dissatisfaction increase?
  • Do you feel more anxious, guilty or ashamed after certain foods? Do you judge yourself for eating these foods?
  • Do you turn to food when you are dissatisfied with areas in your life? Such as work, relationships? 
  • What’s your ideal emotional relationship with food?

I hold my hands up and say that I emotionally eat. I use it to mask uncomfortable feelings and to amplify pleasant ones. It’s an all round mood booster for me. I‘m feeling less disatisfaction with myself after emotionally eating,but, its a work in progress.

As you go through the answers try to be honestly, in the next step we are going to dig a little deeper and see if when and where you emotionally eat.

Emotional eating assessment

Now let’s look at when you emotionally eat.

Keep a record of your answers for a few days, especially on different or difficult days.

  • What food have you eaten?
  • How much?
  • What were you thinking?
  • How did you feel before you ate the food?
  • How did you feel after you had eaten the food?
  • What time did you eat the food?
  • Where did you eat the food?

 Do you see any links or patterns?

Here’s my birthday party example: 

  • What food have you eaten? – Birthday cake 
  • How much? two slices ( I had to eat both kids slices as it wouldn’t be fair and I didn’t want an argument whilst I was driving)
  • What were you thinking? Thank goodness that’s over
  • How did you feel before you ate the food? Extremely stressed
  • How did you feel after you had eaten the food? A sense of calm 
  • What time did you eat the food? 4 pm
  • Where did you eat the food? In the car 

Our relationship with food is tricky, some of us use food to alter our mood and help us meet the challenges of our daily lives. The food of choice changes from person to person but, chocolate, wine, coffee and crisps are frequently used.

Did you notice a pattern of emotional eating for you?

Did you discover something you hadn’t noticed before?

Do you think you understand yourself a bit better after completing the questions?

Are there things that you will do differently now with your new insight?

Pop your answers in the comment box below and we can start a discussion!

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