Psychology of Nutrition

by Andy Travis

The fitness industry is quite an interesting bear. Commercials for the latest product promise “immediate results” that seldom prove to be true. This raises a couple of questions: Why do the promises never become reality? Why are so many Americans still unhealthy? The answers are quite simple yet quite complex.

Simply put, it is Psychology. Our thoughts and emotions control how we eat, when we eat, and why we eat. Sadly, most of us know this, yet refuse to accept it as truth. The reasoning leads to another conversation, which we will have to address on another blog post.

Before we dive into the complex world of emotional eating, I would like to make it clear that I am not a expert in psychology. As a matter of fact, I have only taken one psychology class in my life and I barely passed! All of my insight comes from experience; some personal and some from my 8 years in the fitness industry working with athletes, obese individuals, as well as those with extreme psychological barriers.

How do our emotions control our eating habits?

The basis of emotional eating comes from comfort. We are sad, so we associate happiness with a sweet treat. We are afraid we will become fat, so we associate food with obesity. We believe that our significant other loves us exactly how we are, therefore; we refuse to gain or lose weight for fear of losing their love. The situations are endless and very subjective, but they all stem from our emotions.

How can we control our emotional eating?

It’s hard to provide a generic answer to this due to the complexity and individual nature of each human. A great place to start would be a detailed food log. Three categories need to be tracked during each eating period. Food we consumed, quantity of food consumed, and our emotional state during consumption. This will help us identify foods associated with certain emotional states.

Once we have identified our associations, we can move in one of two directions; either, dissection of the problem and eliminating the root cause of the emotional state or teaching ourselves to re-associate our emotional state with more nutritious foods.

The thing about psychology is that with each discovery we find new paths we could take. The above steps may solve the problem for some while for others it might be the beginning of a journey to self-discovery. Either way, discovery is the first step one must take.

I would like to end by reminding the reader I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, major in either discipline or any sort of profession in the field. As a matter of fact, if it weren't for spell check, I probably couldn't spell the words properly! If you need help, please contact a professional. The above tips are simply meant to shed light on a prevalent problem that seems to take second place to revenue and quarterly sales reports. Hopefully, one reader will find the information beneficial and can move toward living!