Emotional eating, societal obligation & social media: Major obstacles to eating healthy & how we can overcome them

How often have we over-eaten because we were feeling low, lonely or just bored? The thing is, there is food for every mood and our eating habits are mostly stimulated from emotional hunger rather than physical hunger.

Credits: SouthWest family medicine associates

In today’s times, our mind has stopped differentiating between these two terms. This means that even though the body is full, we end up eating extra for emotional fulfilment.

Intuitive eating is an eating style that promotes healthy eating habits by making you aware of your own body needs. The motive is to make you realise when to STOP eating. In the long run, it not only helps you shed extra calories but also promotes awareness and a healthy lifestyle.

The big question is, how to achieve this kind of intuitiveness?

  1. Reject dieting and starving yourself. Stop over-thinking about what you eat. The first step to achieving intuitiveness is to be mentally healthy. Be comfortable in your skin and happy about your body. This will automatically raise your self esteem and that’s half the job done.
  2. If you are hungry, EAT. It’s not easy to make the shift from emotional hunger to physical hunger in a day or two. So, don’t expect quick results.
  3. Once you achieve the first two points, start respecting your body. Don’t eat the leftovers simply because it’s getting wasted. Remember: Your body is not a dump bag. It isn’t ideal to waste food but thrusting it into your body is worse.
  4. Treat your stomach as a person. Listen to it. Follow its instructions. It will automatically guide you towards intuitiveness.
  5. Come up with alternative means to overcome your mood swings. If you are angry, go for a run around the park. If feeling low, cheer yourself up with a comic movie on netflix or swing along to Timberlake’s Can’t stop the feeling.
  6. Eating food has to be an enjoyable experience. Stop multitasking. Relish your dish, smell the spices and let your taste buds sense the flavours.
  7. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. Shift your focus from losing weight to feeling energized. Work out because the amazing endorphins will keep you happy and positive all day long.

To eat intuitively, we may have to relearn how to trust our bodies. To do that, we need to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger. It is a gradual process but becoming aware of the difference is the first step towards a healthier lifestyle.

Speaking of overeating, the impact of ‘societal obligation’ cannot be neglected. When you say yes to an extra scoop of ice-cream at a work party, you are merely eating to give company or don’t mind a few extra calories. Getting extra cups of coffee during office breaks, ordering less/more at a restaurant out of fear of being judged, becoming conscious of your eating style are some of the common consequences of societal pressure.

How to fix this ?

  1. Learn to refuse politely.
  2. Collect all your coffee cups and count the number of cups by the end of the day. Do the same for alcohol.
  3. Be yourself. People will like you for having a positive and confident personality. Nobody likes a camouflage.

There is no denying that food is huge on social media. Infact, pizza is the most instagrammable food today. That’s followed by steak and sushi. There are more than 1.7 billion recipe pins on Pinterest. BuzzFeed’s Tasty, a food oriented page on Facebook, has over 3.5 million followers.

It’s almost impossible to scroll through the feed without coming across #foodporn, #foodie pictures, videos or memes. Exposure to food via social media has knowingly or unknowingly shaped up our eating habits.

Assess yourself and COUNT THE DOTS: About a decade ago-

  • Were you keen on trying different cuisines at popular restaurants
  • Did you eat out as often as you do now
  • Did you spend hours surfing the internet looking for the perfect instagrammable cafe
  • Have you ordered better-looking food rather than the dish you actually wanted to eat
  • Was cafe-hopping even a thing
  • Did you buy an outfit that would go with the decor of the cafe you were planning to visit
  • Clicked pictures of the food in ten different angles even when everybody around is staring at you for acting weird
  • Asked your boyfriend to click #ootd pictures in a coffee place?
  • Ordered something just for the sake of a good picture
  • Over-eaten for eaten less than you actually need

What’s your score? An average millennial would score 10/10 stars which is alarming.

This overwhelming shift in eating habits not only affects your eating habits but is harmful for your mental well-being. But somehow, it has been hyper normalised and efficiently blended with our day-to-day lives.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study and found a few disturbing trends. Study participants who spent the most time on social media each day were 2.2 times more likely to report that they had issues with body image and eating. Participants who spent less time on social media did not report those concerns with the same frequently. The most frequent users reported 2.6 times more.

Food photography degrades the dining experience and leaves food to go cold while diners try to capture the perfect picture. It’s difficult to enjoy food or making healthy eating choices when the priority is on choosing food for its Instagram potential.

While ‘Foodstagrammers’ may be driving some of us to eat while we shouldn’t and simply irritating others who are tired of the endless onslaught of ‘look at my lunch!’ posts, there is some good news. There are qualified nutritionists, dieticians, chefs and wellness brands like Vape Genie using social media as a platform to share solid diet advice on healthy eating, nutrition, alcohol detox, weight loss and other topics.

It’s not always possible for people to reach out to their traditional healthcare providers for advice and insights on diet and wellness. As a result, they’re turning to social media more and more often, for practical advice they can use right away.

Social media can be a wealth of helpful advice on diet and wellness. It can also expose us to new foods and new cultures. This can lead to better understanding and communication between cultures.

We all have to agree on one thing- social media has its pros and cons. But how to embrace the positives without letting the negatives affect us? There is no definitive answer to this question but the key is to selectively follow the pages that will benefit you in the long run. Be a trendsetter instead of copying one.

Credits: Shwetha Vasan