The Connection Between Food and Feelings

Kiara Tchir
May 5, 2020
Have you ever questioned why you eat the way you do? Do you know the reason behind your behaviors, like why you skip breakfast or why you crave pasta? Many of your actions may be habitual, but if you look a bit deeper, you’ll see that how you behave around food is based on how you feel inside.

Your feelings shape everything – from what you say, to the job you have, to the people you surround yourself with, and the way you eat. Whether you realize it or not, you physically enact how you’re feeling inside. You are the embodiment of your feelings. This is especially true when it comes to food, because food is one of the few things in life we can control.

Geneen Roth is a pioneer in exploring the true connection between food and feelings. She believes that how you eat not only reflects how you feel about food, but also how you feel about yourself, your environment, your family, your spirituality, and your personal world as a whole.

“You will quickly discover if you believe the world is a hostile place and that you need to be in control of the immediate universe for things to go smoothly. You will discover if you believe there is not enough to go around and that taking more than you need is necessary for survival. You will find out if you believe that being quiet is unbearable, and that being alone means being lonely. If feeling your feelings means being destroyed… And you will discover how you use food to express each one of these core beliefs.”
  • Geneen Roth, Women, Food and God

Before eating

The food in front of you did not get there by accident. In a world full of endless choices and free will, both your conscious and unconscious feelings dictate what you feed yourself. You may have decided some foods are unhealthy, some are toxic, and others are fattening; here lies fear. You might only seek foods that are clean, organic, or “good” because you also feel the need to be good. 

For some, the anticipation of eating brings feelings of anxiety or stress. For others, food is exciting and rewarding. These feelings express our individual, core beliefs that result from a lifetime of constant interaction with our environment and the people in it. Your experiences have shaped your beliefs about everything, and will influence the food that you choose.

During eating

Emotions also arise during eating. Ideally, you can enjoy a meal with underlying feelings of contentment and satisfaction, but it’s not uncommon to feel a nagging sense of anxiety: Shouldn’t I be full by now? I’ve eaten so much. This tastes really rich – I’ll have to have a salad for dinner. I wonder how many calories this is gonna cost me.

Many people consider themselves to be “emotional eaters.” They use food to cope with their feelings and try to numb overwhelming emotions. This may not be a conscious decision for those who absentmindedly binge on food during periods of stress or emotional upset. Eating can be a time reserved for not feeling their feelings.

After eating

The most common feeling associated with eating is fear. We’re often afraid that what we’ve eaten will harm our health or affect how our body looks. We’ve internalized so much messaging about food that it’s hard not to be wary of it. Sayings like “food is medicine” and “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips” lead us to crown food as the major determinant of our health.

We then take on the immense responsibility of eating perfectly, because if we don’t, then our health fails and our body balloons and the environment deteriorates and the world’s children go hungry and ....

The fear of eating incorrectly can feel overwhelming. The shame of eating “bad” foods can lead to behaviors like restriction, dieting, bingeing, and over-exercising. This creates a cycle of negative feelings and dysfunctional eating that cause many to develop an unhealthy relationship with food or even an eating disorder.

The connection between food and feelings is powerful and complex. Consider how your feelings shape your eating habits, and extend compassion to yourself as you uncover any eating behaviors that you’d like to change. Self-awareness is vital to this process, and Savor is here to get you started. To begin now, download Savor today from the App Store or Google Play.

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Start changing the way you look at yourself.

You are not alone in your quest to build a healthier relationship with food. In embracing mindful eating, you will learn to naturally find the weight that is right for you. Download Savor to begin a well-balanced life today.