Understanding Food and Your Happiness
Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures and an integral part of our life experience. Nearly everything we do is surrounded by food. Each cultural and social event we attend from birthdays, to weddings, to funerals, to religious gatherings all have to do with food.
Did you know that food has a direct impact on how you feel?
Biologically, the purpose of food is to nourish the body so that we have the proper fuel to perform our daily physiological and physical functions. However, by eating too much or too little food our body’s systems become compromised thereby, negatively affecting our health and quality of life. There are many factors that influence our eating habits and feelings about food including:
- Economic status
Many people also turn to food as a way to cope with their feelings including stress, anxiety, boredom, depression, or joy. These negative feelings affect both men and women. Research suggests that negative emotions may lead to a feeling of emptiness or an emotional void. Food is believed to be a way to fill that void and create a false sense of “fullness” or temporary wholeness. Other factors include:
- retreating from social support during times of emotional need
- not engaging in activities that might otherwise relieve stress, anxiety, or sadness
- not understanding the difference between physical and emotional hunger.
Physical vs. Emotional Hunger
Physical and emotional hunger may be easily confused, but there are key differences between the two. If you think this could be a problem you are struggling with then it is important to pay attention to how and when your hunger starts as well as how you feel after eating.
It develops slowly over time.
It comes about suddenly or abruptly.
You desire a variety of food groups.
You crave only certain foods.
You feel the sensation of fullness and take it as a cue to stop eating.
You may binge on food and not feel a sensation of fullness.
You have no negative feelings about eating.
You feel guilt or shame about eating.
Dieting and Your Emotions
Dieting is a very common practice that many people engage in at various points in their lives. The popularity of dieting is fueled by several factors, the first being a national aversion to being overweight. In today’s social media run society, we are constantly inundated with transformation posts and videos of people who have lost a lot of weight from various diet plans and some of us want to be a part of that trend. Many of us also want to experience fast results. However, many of these trendy diets do not have the evidence to back up their effectiveness and safety. That’s not to say that some of these diets are not effective if applied properly and consistently. However, many of them are not lifestyle-based diets and eventually get phased out of our daily activities.
Research suggests that most diet programs have very short term effects on helping people lose weight and improve their cardiovascular health. One study showed that over six months most macronutrient diets resulted in modest weight loss and substantial improvements in cardiovascular risk, particularly with blood pressure. However, at 12 months the effects on weight reduction and improvements in cardiovascular risk factors largely disappear.
How Dieting Affects Your Happiness
Having a poor relationship with food has been connected to many negative outcomes including:
- Decreased levels of energy and alertness
- Poor health outcomes
- Difficult movement due to poor health
- Negative body image
The stress of not meeting your physical wellness goals can take an emotional toll on you and if you are prone to emotional eating disorders, it can lead you down the wrong path.
One of the top ways dieting affects your happiness is by negatively affecting your self-esteem. Diets often require some form of deprivation that is not actually sustainable over the long-term. For example, many people tie their diet routine to a specific number goal on the scale and if they do not achieve that goal they will often be hard on themselves for it. This can lead to negative self talk and a sense of hopelessness. This can create a cycle of emotional eating changing cortisol levels in response to stress, leading to cravings.
Dieting can also lead to obsessive tendencies and anxiety. This includes purchasing equipment, meal plans, and health food products along with drastically eliminating all non-health food items from your kitchen. In some cases, it can lead to social anxiety preventing you from attending social events to prevent temptation and straying from the dietary restrictions.
It is important to note that short term thinking prevents long term lifestyle change. For some people that do achieve their weight loss goals, they can start to lose motivation to keep going thereby abruptly ending their diet regimen and reverting back to old habits.
Negative Physical Effects of Dieting
The negative effects of dieting are manifold. One of the top effects include fluctuations in weight. Increased dieting leads to more weight gain over time. When most people use a short-term diet to lose weight, they will regain 30–65% of that lost weight within one year. They also experience higher body fat percentage, fatty liver, and it can lead to muscle loss. This has been associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Yo-yo dieting leads to nutrient deficiencies resulting in hair loss, skin issues, and nail breakages. This can also result in chronic pain and fatigue.
How to Prevent the Negative Effects of Dieting
As a general principle, the optimal nutrition and wellness plan should be safe, efficacious, healthy and nutritionally adequate, culturally acceptable and economically affordable, and should ensure long-term compliance and maintenance of weight loss.
Firstly, it is important to set realistic goals that are tailored to the individual needs and preferences. It is also important to ensure that you have the right mindset going into any nutrition or wellness program. Don't look for fast results rather focus on a long-term strategy that fits into your overall lifestyle.
If you are interested in learning more about how to develop a lifestyle-based wellness routine, then contact ILYNSI Yoga directly to set up your free wellness consultation where we will discuss your current wellness routine, areas where you might feel stuck, and an action plan for meeting your wellness goals.
What has been your experience with dieting? Leave a comment below.