How do your friends influence eating habits

Food and emotions: How emotions affect our eating habits

Why do we eat what we eat? Why do we often reach for chocolate when we are grieved and use alcohol to calm us down when we are stressed? Why are delicious dinners part of a festive occasion? Our psyche has a great influence on our eating habits and our food choices. In my new article I would like to explain these relationships to you in more detail.

What we eat is shaped from an early age. So there is Taste preferences for sweet, as we have evolved to associate sweet foods with energy and security. Bitter foods are more likely to be rejected by children because we tend to associate bitter foods with dangerous substances.

The older we get, the more the environment has more influence on our eating habits: the culture, the diet of the parents, the school and the advertising. I'm sure everyone has seen this before! When a child brings the latest chocolate bars into class, others will soon follow suit. It's also cool to be part of it.

We also know the phenomenon from Diddle and soccer stickers. But the older we get, the more we play cognitive influences an important role: health factors, curiosity or scientific statements about food.

But emotions also play a major role, which I would like to describe in more detail later. As you can see, there are innumerable Influencing factorsthat shape, influence and, if necessary, change our eating habits.

Nutritional Psychology: What Motives Are There When Choosing Food?

There are many motives that influence us when choosing food. I would like to briefly introduce some of them:

  • Taste demands (kale with sausage is a pleasure)
  • Feeling hungry (stomach growls)
  • economic conditions (asparagus is currently on sale)
  • cultural influences (rolls with coffee for breakfast)
  • traditional influences (potato salad on Christmas Eve)
  • emotional impact (grief and chocolate)
  • social reasons (a meal with friends is sociable)
  • Fitness and beauty considerations (supposed to make you slim)
  • Curiosity (the new pudding from ...)
  • Influences of illness (lactose intolerance and avoidance of dairy products)
  • magic assignments and pseudoscientific statements (food combining for weight loss)

And these are just a few of the motives. There are a few more that influence our food choices. But here, too, you can see how many motives influence our eating behavior without us thinking about it too much.

Some motives are consistent and hardly change, others have one acute influence and lie down again after a while. One of these acute influences is our emotions!

Eating for emotional reasons - this is how the psyche and our eating behavior are related

Eating is not just an intake of food. Eating is emotional behavior! We usually combine a delicious meal with a nice social evening with friends. That is part of it and gives us fun and friends.

The following statistics show that eating has a great emotional impact: Eating takes fourth place in the Pleasure hierarchy after vacation, family and sex. On the other hand, we are constantly in conflict with our cognitive thoughts. Yes, chocolate is delicious and we love it, but chocolate also makes you fat and is high in calories.

This conflict worries us and makes it difficult to change one's eating habits. More on this in a later article!

Which emotions influence our eating behavior?

There are different types of emotions that influence our eating behavior! These include:

  • specific emotional qualities (grief, stress, joy)
  • Moods (mostly lasting for a longer period of time)
  • Disordered experience (pleasant taste perception when enjoying chocolate)
  • Mixed emotions (when we feel fear and sadness at the same time)

The effects of emotions on our eating behavior are very different from one another. For example, the feeling of boredom leads to an increased appetite, while grief and jealousy decrease our appetite.

This phenomenon was confirmed in a study that was carried out. People who felt joy said they had a bigger appetite and they liked the piece of chocolate better. People who were sad said they had less appetite and less desire for chocolate.

This can be explained by the fact that in a state of joy we are ready to process and absorb external stimuli better. Sadness leads to decreased stimulus processing.

Food also triggers emotions in us: Eating with grief and stress

Stress and negative emotions only increase our eating behavior when the negative mood is reduced by eating. I eat more chocolate when I'm under stress, then I immediately feel more relaxed. These emotional effects can be caused by different foods:

  • Associative Effects: The name of a product alone triggers a certain emotion in us. We rate high-calorie foods as threatening; this is more pronounced in women due to the prevailing ideal of slimness. But it can also trigger positive feelings. The smell of cinnamon reminds us of the beautiful Christmas season.
  • Sensory-affective effect: Why do many people in a negative mood have an increased desire for chocolate? One study showed that milk chocolate is the best way to satisfy chocolate cravings. Positive taste characteristics play a major role here. In another study, watching a movie put people in a sad mood. They were given a glass of water and a piece of chocolate. Only the chocolate improved the mood. Since these effects were also observed with small amounts, a pharmacological basis for the chocolate could be ruled out. Rather, it is the positive characteristics of chocolate that improve our mood.

Stress is a two-faced phenomenon. Some people can unrestrainedly gobble up sugary and fatty foods in a short time when they are under stress. With other people, the stress hits the stomach, they hardly feel any appetite.

But also the Intensity of stress plays a role! Extreme stressors usually lead to a loss of appetite, whereas mild stressors lead to an increased appetite. Eating reduces the feeling of stress.

Conclusion: the interaction of emotions and food

Emotions change our eating behavior and vice versa, food triggers emotions in us. Which effects are triggered is different for each person. Only when a certain food satisfies our emotions is it actually consumed.

  • Negative moods (grief, suffering, sadness or stress) lead to a decreased appetite for many people. Only when our mood can be lifted by consuming a product do we prefer to eat it.
  • Positive moods (joy, lust) usually lead to increased appetite.

If you want to find out more, I refer you to one of my sources for this article: Article in the food review

In the next article I will describe how we manage to change our eating behavior, even when we are strongly influenced by emotions.