Food and love seems to be so tied to each other that it becomes difficult to separate them. At birth, a baby learns to be nurtured by their mother through feeding, it is a time of nurturing and bonding between mother and baby. Thus begins our emotional bonding between love and eating. Everything we do, it seems, revolves around food, whether it is a birthday, holiday, anniversary or any other celebration. Socializing and eating fit together like a hand in a glove. It is instilled into our psyche from birth.
There is a true physical link between our body chemistry and a need for to be nurtured. Our bodies create a hormone called oxytocin that binds food to our emotion, This hormone is strongly released in new mothers after the birth of their child and stimulates their milk production while strengtening the mother-child bond. It is theorized that an adult with high levels of oxytocin will get to feeling hungry when lonely or feeling the need for love. This can lead to overeating and obesity.
Often in life, we can confuse our emotions, rewards and consequences with food. We tell our kids to clean their plate and eat their greens before they can have dessert. We make sure our children eat breakfast or lunch before going outside to play, whether they are hungry or not. When our children are upset, we give them a treat in order to comfort them. And then, besides tying huge family feasts to holidays and such, we exchange chocolate with our significant others at Valentines Day. All of these occasions during our formative years and beyond link food with love, reward and comfort.
Some of us eat in order to mask depression or Post Traumatice Stress which I personally suffer from both. Feeding our faces with comfort foods becomes a way to make ourselves feel better temporarily. According to University of California, San Diego, childhood abuse, losing a parent to death or divorce, experiencing a sad event or violence can cause them later in life to be fearful and unconciously use food to relieve thier troubled minds and to actually gain weight.
Gaining weight can create what feels like a protective barrier form the rest of the world where an individual can feel less vulnerable and in order to keep others at a distance. For too many folks, eating becomes a way to numb pain and to make themselves feel better in the moment. Kind of like a smoker lighting up a cigarette in order to calm their nerves. Some people are filled with an inner rage which causes them to turn that anger inward on themselves. Self hatred can lead to overeating, substance abuse and or other self destructive disorders. I am sure that almost everyone reading these words have either experienced this personally, or have someone in their lives who are like this. With our emtional ties to food, it becomes difficult to distinguish between our body’s actual needs from our emotional wants. Eating has become a way to bring comfort to both physical and emotional needs. It soothes our pain.
I believe we all know at least someone, if not even our own selves who have irrational ideas and beliefs that have developed as a result of trama which further confuses our emotions with hunger. A perfect example would be if you ever sat on your kitchen floor eating frosting from a can with a spoon with tears running down your cheeks. You may feel unlovable, flawed or unworthy. Loneliness and a low self esteem can erode self confidence which can lead us to over eating and obesity. Sadly, many people internalize bad life experiences that were likely not even within their ability to manage, as a reason to label themselves as inadequate. If you want to get over this and to repair your bad relationship with food, you must identify the origin of your emotions and then learn to deal with them. Once you have addressed your inner pain and develop a method to deal with it, then you can handle dealing with, or actually stopping once and for all, your emotional eating. By breaking emotional links to food we can repair our bodies and our minds for a healthier life.