Surely you've heard the phrase: "Eat to live, not live to eat."
It seems that our relationship with food is extremely complicated.
It turns out, it's not just our mindset right now, but also every
attitude that we've had about food from our childhood that affects
how, what and why we eat. Did you ever make cookies with your
grandmother, or have a special birthday dinner? Was there some
treat that you only had on special occasions? Did you go
trick-or-treating for Halloween? Unless we've somehow managed to
avoid all of those things, food has become a reward and measure of
comfort in our lives.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with this. But we have to be
aware of it. As we go through our lives running crazy, working
ourselves ridiculous hours, studying, going from obligation to
obligation, taking on way too much, it's really easy to seek
consolation in our food.
Of course, there's more to it than that. Eating these things
ignites reward chemistry in our brains. Dopamine is produced
leading to the sensation of pleasure. Serotonin, which most people
recognize as the hormone affecting depression, is dramatically
affected. In fact about 95% of the serotonin is produced in the
gut. This not only regulates how much food we eat, but how we feel
about how much food we eat. It has direct impact on our mood about
There are other, seemingly less interesting, hormones involved
with food intake. Leptin, produced in adipose tissue, regulates
food intake and fat storage. Deficits or defects in it lead to
overeating. Another hormone, CCK, which is released from the small
intestine while you eat, provides negative feedback about the
quantity of food. Deficits in it (or damage to the small intestine)
lead to overeating. Ghrelin, insulin, cortisol, and glucagon are
also involved. *Whew!*
You see, we treat food as medicine, not just because of the
hormones it induces, but because of the nutrients it provides. We
can use food to medicate or nourish our bodies.
We need those nutrients to live. They provide the building
blocks of everything that we are, the chemicals that sustain us,
and the energy that keeps us going.
I've been doing some reading (in all my spare time) about the
psychology of eating. It turns out there's a whole Institute for
the Psychology of Eating. I've been exploring the ideas of why
people eat; how much food we really need to live; and how we can
nourish ourselves body/mind/spirit without overindulging. The topic
itself is absolutely fascinating, and challenging in ways beyond
all of the science.
It's food for thought.
Everybody have an amazing week!
For more information on the psychology of eating and hormonal
control of eating, check out: