Are You Bad-Vibing Yourself When You Eat? The Psychology of Eating



For a while now, I’ve really been on top of my nutrition, realizing that what I eat directly affects how I feel, affects how I show up in life, who I can be and what I can achieve (after being in denial for years, and suffering the consequences). I approached nutrition like a to-do list or a task to complete perfectly. Revamp! Out went junk food and nutrient-poor foods, in came hempseed and other superfoods. Out went the wheat, in came the quinoa. Out went the alcohol, in came water with fresh lemon and herbal tea. Out went the butter, in came the coconut oil. Out went the milk, in came the coconut, hemp or almond milk. Out went any added sugar, in came raw honey (a superfood) and stevia or natural maple syrup. Out went high glycemic fruit, in came vegetables and veggie juice. Out went table salt, in came sea salt with minerals. That wasn’t enough, so out went all grains, eggs, dairy, gluten, sugar, artificial sweeteners and colors, all sweeteners of any kind, alcohol, coffee, trans-fats, low quality oils (canola oil, corn oil, soybean oils), corn (even organic), most processed foods (anything in a package), nightshade vegetables, even starchy vegetables. Out went most restaurants. Anything that could cause unhealthy inflammation: OUT.  Anything that could alkalize my body: IN.

Over time, my diet became stricter and stricter, more and more narrow in breadth. In some ways my health did drastically improve: my severe arthritis and joint/systemic inflammation decreased, my sleep improved and energy levels went up, my cognitive abilities improved. Yet my stomach was still hurting, bloated, temperamental – feeling raw, like an open wound. I was so tightly fixated on the ideas of “organic”, “free-range, grass-fed”, “low-gycemic”, “high quality fat” and all the other things that are, indeed, a solid way to approach nutrition…yet there was something missing. I was wrapped around the story of what it would take to be fully healthy. I wasn’t really enjoying food anymore; I was categorizing food into good vs evil. I was looking at nutrition like a ticket to health – IF I could stay precisely on the right road, never veering off, no mistakes, no exceptions. I was on a nutritional tightrope, one almost impossible to not fall off eventually.

It was a case of my Type-A, perfectionistic tendencies in full roar. The entire time while eating, I’d be scanning my choices in case there was anything I was eating that may cause my body distress. I was coming from a place of fear and scarcity.  I was bad-vibing myself, like a broken record, guilting myself every time I ate. I was yearning to be free from my self-imposed strict dogma and enjoy food and life again…but how?

One of my expert health speakers for Transform Your Health Summit (a free virtual event I am organizing and hosting that goes live Oct 1-10th, 2013), Emily Rosen (along with Marc David), will be speaking about the psychology of eating. It got me thinking about my own situation, how I’m still getting pain and hunger signals from my body. How it’s not just a question of what you eat; the other side of the coin is HOW you eat. Hmmm…maybe this is the missing link? The second half of the puzzle?

“You can literally be eating the healthiest food in the universe but if you’re not eating under the optimal state of assimilation and digestion then you cannot receive the full nutritional value of your meal. Who you are as an eater profoundly impacts your body.” -Emily Rosen

Have you ever ate a big meal and know your belly is full…but your mouth is still hungry and you want to eat more? Most people eat on the run, in a stressed out state, don’t really pay attention to food or eating, and/or feel guilty about what they eat. Eating quickly, feeling (or imagining stress), are physiological stressors. Thoughts can cause just as much stress as actual events, and anything considered stressful will decrease nutritional metabolism. The stress response is designed to be active 2-4 minutes (think about gazelles running from a tiger, then as soon as the danger is over stopping and grazing again). However, our lifestyle has caused this response to last way longer than nature intended.  CORTISOL DESENSITIZES US TO PLEASURE. The stress response is designed for short-term survival, not quality of life or optimal health. Stress increases cortisol and insulin (evolutionary biological impulse) which signals the body to burn less calories, store fat (and not store muscle) and also makes us feel like there’s not enough time (creating an anxious feeling) and blunts the body to pleasure. If we don’t pay attention while we eat, our digestive ability decreases by up to 40% and our brain still registers hunger. Then you have to eat more, and require extreme foods (super sweet, super salty) to feel the pleasure. We lose the ability to recognize when we are truly hungry. Scientific studies show that subjects lose 40-60% of  digestive capacity and mineral absorption decreases almost up to 100% (lasting up to several hours) by not paying attention while eating (in other words, multi-tasking).

What is your eating style? Are you a fast, slow or moderate eater? Do you eat standing up, in the car, on the run, at the computer?

The solution is to change the state in which you eat. By changing *how* you eat, you can actually burn more calories and assimilate better – without changing what you eat (not to discount the importance of quality foods). The optimum state for eating is when the relaxation response is engaged. Pleasure catalyzes the relaxation response and is a powerful metabolic enhancer – endorphins stimulate digestion and satiety. Ideally we will experience pleasure and being present to the entire experience, and eating slowly to allow the brain to register taste, pleasure, satiation, and satisfaction. Understand when you are self-creating stress (imagined). Notice your thoughts and be intentional with what you think about – the power of the mind is so strong that our beliefs about food translates to how our body processes and metabolizes food (which is why inert placebos work). Healing can take place within the relaxation response (see also: Lissa Rankin’s Mind Over Medicine). 

“The more we are present to what we do, the more the body will naturally reward us with optimum function. Overeating is not a willpower problem – usually it’s a presence issue.” – Emily Rosen/Marc David

Engage the relaxation response (and change HOW you eat) by:

  • Taking 10 deep belly breaths before each meal will prime the body for the upcoming food and shift physiology 
  • Create a relaxed eating environment
  • Enjoy the smells and the visual experience of the meal
  • Be attentive and present while eating (don’t multi-task!)
  • Eat slowly, chew more, allow the brain time to assimilate what is happening – stretch your usual eating time into longer and longer
  • Allow yourself to experience any and all pleasure and sensuality from the food and the entire experience
  • Empower yourself with supportive thoughts (no guilt!) – watch and replace disempowering thoughts (aka stop Bad-Vibing yourself!)

I’ve heard pieces of this paradigm for years, but this is the first time it was presented in an accessible, easily connected way. Thank you, Emily and Marc! I plan to undertake this experiment – to change HOW I eat (in addition to healthy foods) to see if it makes a difference.

In the meantime, make sure to sign up for the Transform Your Health Summit so you can hear my interview with Emily and get access to her free audio and video gifts! This could be life-changing…

Yours in health and happiness,

Marcie Peters

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