Eating is soothing both psychologically and physiologically. It actually does “calm our nerves” and anxieties both emotionally and physically, which is why we often have such a strong urge to comfort ourselves with food. In the absence of strong internal self-soothing skills, eating becomes a common substitute according to researcher Freeman, Gil, Macht, Spoor et al.
In her book “50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food”, Dr. Susan Albers, Psy.D discusses the reasons that eating is soothing as outlined below.
1) Certain foods increase the amount of neurotransmitters in your brain or induce other biochemical changes that provide us comfort.
2) Comfort foods help to balance our stress hormones and stress levels.
3) “Comfort foods” are usually high in carbs, fat or sugar which tend to taste good and give us a “full” sensation. They are also often associated with pleasant childhood memories.
4) Food is often associated with celebration and/or holidays.
5) Parents often use food to pacify us as children. This becomes built into our subconsious mind as a means of soothing ourselves later in life.
6) We often learn this behavoir from our parents by seeing them soothe themselves with food.
7) When we are bored or feeling like we need to stay busy, food can be engaging, take up time and feel productive.
8) Eating allows us to divert our attention from other things that may be bothering us, even if only temporarily.
9) When dieting becomes difficult, eating provides immediate pleasure or reward vs. the often distant goal of becoming slimmer and healthier.
10) Eating a particular way over and over again becomes a habit. Even if it is unhealthy, the familiarity of a habit is always comforting.
For more information on this subject and Dr. Albers’ book, go to her website at www.eatingmindfully.com.