Exploring Food & Feelings
Food is essential to our nourishment and survival; in addition, our thoughts, moods and emotions are often tied to particular foods. Certain foods can be comforting in times of stress. Sometimes the comfort comes from the memories associated with them: Oatmeal raisin cookies can bring back loving feelings about your grandmother. Negative moods and feelings can also be tied to food, such as during family holiday arguments about whether the turkey is overcooked. Advertisers study the psychology of food to determine what words and images will make you crave their products. These three books explore ways to develop an emotionally healthy relationship with food.
Eat Your Feelings: The Food Mood Girl’s Guide to Transforming your Emotional Eating by Lindsey Smith guides you through a discovery of how some food cravings can relate to corresponding nutritional needs. You might notice the emotional need you are trying to meet through eating is related to a nutritional one. Smith takes you on an adventure of utilizing your food craving to discover your deeper needs and healthy ways to satisfy them.
The author guides you through some common cravings: sweets, salty, chocolate, caffeine, bread/pasta. For example, cravings for sweets say “your body really needs less red meat, natural energy, detoxifying nutrients, less stress, more rest, balance.” She recommendations including nutrients such as “dark leafy greens, fish such as salmon, berries such as blueberries and raspberries, sweet vegetables such as carrots, natural sweeteners, more rest, meditation, time with friends and family.” These recommendations come with recipes.
The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual: A Practical Mind-Body-Spirit Guide to Putting an End to Overeating and Dieting by Julie M. Simon also addresses emotional eating. She divides the skills to learn into three categories: mastering self-care skills when overeating is driven by emotional hunger; tuning up biochemistry when overeating is driven by body imbalance; and filling up spiritual reserves when overeating is driven by spiritual hunger. In each section, Simon teaches five practical skills that help you understand your emotional hunger, heal your relationship with food and create balance in your life.
A third offering is Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, MD with a foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness, a core concept in Zen Buddhism, has become a popular concept with applications in science, health care and education. It can be a powerful tool to awaken to the full potential of life. Chozen Bays describes mindfulness as “deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of that is happening both inside yourself—in your body, heart and mind—and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without judgment or criticism.”
Chozen Bay defines nine types of hunger and explores how each can be fed without food. One is eye hunger: the hunger for beauty. Even when feeling full, a look at the dessert cart can suddenly make a sweet hard to resist. Touch hunger can be satisfied by the touch of food while eating with your hands or by awareness of your lips and your mouth as you eat. Another foodless way to feed touch hunger is a hug or a massage. Ear hunger can be fed with the sounds of food, such as the crisp crackle of potato chips, but it can also be fed with serene, calming music.
The list of hungers and their relationship to food or other satisfactions include nose hunger satisfied by scent, mouth hunger by sensation and stomach hunger, reflected in the feeling of emptiness or fullness. Readers can discover an array of types of hungers and learn what their bodies are saying when they relay the signals of these different types. If you remain alert and aware, you can distinguish what type of hunger you are experience and how to best feed the hunger, whether with food or something else.
Candace Apple is the owner of Phoenix & Dragon Bookstore in Atlanta, which offers a broad selection of holistic and spiritual merchandise as well as classes, workshops, readings and more. Reach Candace at [email protected].