The Psychology of Eating

What we eat affects how we feel. Food should make us feel good. It tastes great and nourishes our bodies. If you eat too little or eat too much, however, your health and quality of life could be affected. This can result in negative feelings toward food.

By learning how to make healthier and more mindful choices, you may be able to control compulsive eating, binging, and weight gain. By taking charge of your appetite, you may also gain a feeling of calm, high energy levels, and alertness from the foods you eat.

Overall, there are many benefits to changing deep-seated, unhealthy eating habits, such as:

While we often have the best intentions to eat healthier, this is often a challenging task.

What factors influence our eating behaviors?

Experts believe many factors can influence our feelings about food and our eating behaviors. These factors include:

Many people use food as a coping mechanism to deal with such feelings as stress, boredom, or anxiety, or even to prolong feelings of joy. While this may help in the short term, eating to soothe and ease your feelings often leads to regret and guilt, and can even increase the negative feelings. You aren't actually coping with the problem causing the stress. Further, your self-image may suffer as you gain weight.

What role does psychology play in weight management?

Psychology is the science of behavior. It is the study of how and why people do what they do. For people trying to manage their weight, psychology addresses:

What treatments are used for weight management?

Cognitive behavioral treatment is the approach most often used because it deals with both thinking patterns and behavior. Some areas that are addressed through cognitive behavioral treatment include:

What does cognitive behavioral treatment involve?

Cognitive therapy addresses how you think about food. It helps you recognize self-defeating patterns of thinking that can undermine your success at eating healthier and managing your weight/weight loss. It also helps you learn and practice using positive coping self-statements.

Examples of self-defeating thoughts include:

Examples of positive coping self-statements include:

What strategies will help me manage my weight?

To lose weight, it’s helpful to change your thinking. Weight management is about making a lifestyle change. It's not going to happen if you rely on short-term diet after diet to lose weight.

To be successful, be aware of the role that eating plays in your life, and learn how to use positive thinking and behavioral coping strategies to manage your eating and your weight.

To help get you started, here are a few tips:

Things to “do” for healthy eating

The food diary

A food diary is a tool to record in detail:

The diary can help you get a better understanding of what you eat and why you eat it. It also can help your doctor, therapist, or dietitian work with you to make the necessary changes for successful weight management.

References

 

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit www.clevelandclinic.org/health/ or www.clevelandclinicflorida.org. This document was last reviewed on:

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