Emotions and food: is there a relationship?

Who I am
Robert Maurer


Emotions and food: is there a relationship?

Last update: 21 September, 2019

Emotions exert a powerful influence on food choice and eating habits. For example, it was found that the link between emotions and food it is stronger in people who suffer from obesity than in those who do not suffer from it and in those who follow a diet (Sánchez and Pontes: 2012).

It has also been argued that emotions are not in themselves a cause of overweight, but rather the way they are handled and dealt with.

The relationship between emotions and food is a bilateral relationship: what we eat affects our mood and the emotions we feel affect our our way of eating. Cooper et al. (1998) tells us that failing to manage negative moods greatly affects the onset and persistence of eating disorders.

Emotional regulation is a concept that refers to the management of the emotions experienced by a person depending on the circumstances and the emotional state of others. Like this, It has been observed that shame and guilt are the emotions that can have a greater negative impact on the diet. As you can see, the link between emotions and food is much more important than we think.

"What we think generates emotions, but what we eat does too."

-Montse Bradford-

Emotions and food: a couple necessary for health

People develop different behaviors in response to their emotions depending on various factors, such as the context in which they find themselves, the level of education and the ability to identify and manage their feelings. All of this results in a better or worse ability to control one's weight.

For example, it has been observed that the greater emotionality in food intake corresponds to a greater lack of control over the number of meals, with the constant elimination of breakfast from one's eating routine. As you can see, the link between emotions and food is a real fact.

The most influential emotional factor for sedentary people is disinhibition during meals and small cheats that you indulge in with certain foods, such as chocolate and pastry products. For athletes, on the other hand, the emotions linked to guilt, such as the fear of scales and of eating sweets, are more influential than those linked to disinhibition towards meals.

The emotional factor in sedentary people is much less functional than in sportsmen. The excess of these mistakes and the lack of control in food intake are more frequently associated with overeating and eating disorders.

There is also a group of individuals who, due to their own eating habits, have been defined as repressed eaters or a chronic diet. These people experience a tremendous fear of gaining weight and this leads them to restrict their diet through strict diets. Paradoxically, due to these restrictive conditions, the individual increases his ingestion levels by overeating.

Experiencing the pleasant act of eating not only makes us feel more tired, thus causing us to constantly search for food, but can also cause serious health problems. The couple emotions and food must be based on ingesting the right and necessary amount of food. Our emotions must make us aware of the eating habits we need.

Depriving oneself from eating causes an obsession with food

The greater the deprivation, the greater the attraction. Normalizing the relationship with food must be an essential goal in the treatment of food control. The purgative conducts act as a reinforcement to ingestion, therefore favoring the lack of control of eating habits, as well as implying important health risks.

To demonstrate that depriving oneself of eating causes obsession with food, we will use the following technique: we tell you a sentence that you do not have to remember, for example “there is a yellow butterfly in the room”. The premise made has the opposite effect and when we are told not to remember what was communicated, our brain cannot help but process the information received.

The cause of this is to be found in the unconscious, the part that is in charge to a good extent to direct our body, interpreting and storing the information received from our senses.

An essential feature of the unconscious is that it functions through symbols and images, rather than through texts or letters. This means that does not process negative terms. If we say to ourselves "I must not eat french fries", the unconscious will only have the image of french fries and consequently we will have even more desire to eat them. This does not mean that it always happens, but it considerably increases the likelihood that it does.

Emotional hunger

When we use food to calm our mood, we feed ourselves emotionally. Likewise, worry about our weight and our body conceals deeper concerns. This triggers a vicious circle of unresolved worries that hinders our ability to grow and develop.

Each organ generates certain emotions. Based on the foods we consume, we will experience very different emotions. This happens because each food "affects" different organs. If we ingest foods that block the liver, such as alcohol, emotions such as anger, rage, aggression or impatience will emerge more easily.

People with emotional problems often resort to food to get better and this is due to the fact that many foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that stimulates the secretion of serotonin. Low levels of this hormone are associated with depression and obsession.

The lack of serotonin therefore causes various negative effects on the body, such as distress, sadness, or short temper. When the body does not produce tryptophan, we get it from the diet. Foods rich in this amino acid therefore act as natural antidepressants.

According to experts, cereals are the group of foods that contribute most to regulating emotions, as they are rich in vitamin B, which directly affects the nervous system. It has been established that frequent consumption of grains reduces anxiety and affects the attitude we adopt in the presence of problems.

At times we believe that eating will save us from experiencing negative emotions. This thought reinforces the vicious circle between emotions and food.


Cooper, P. J., & Taylor, M. J. (1988). Body image disturbance in bulimia nervosa. The British Journal of Psychiatry.

add a comment of Emotions and food: is there a relationship?
Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.