Food and Your Emotions
Did you know what you crave could be a sign of not just what your body wants – but also what your heart needs?
We know the body does not need a pack of donuts, a hot dog and large Big Gulp of Coca Cola – but remember – food fuels the body, but it also stimulates the taste buds, as well as activates all our other senses – sight, sound, touch and smell. This can be really pleasurable sensations, and is a full body experience.
As a professional chef for nearly 10 years, I like to say that cooking is the only profession (other than sex work) that is akin to sex – using all the senses.
Imagine when you crunch into a potato chip – it is crunchy, it looks golden brown, it smells savory, it tastes salty, feels crumbly in the mouth, then softens. It feeds a craving for fat and salt, and entertainment…but do you know what else it does?
It drowns out your thoughts. It pulls you into the moment, that crunch reverberating in your cranium and providing some white noise to (temporarily) hit pause on those thoughts of inadequacy, frustration, pondering.
Salty not your style? When you reach for a cookie, or say, your favorite cookies and cream ice cream, sugar activates the reward center of the brain. This evolved over generations of hunting for sweet food because that usually demonstrated that the food was nutritious – fruit for example. However, humans kinda blew it out of proportion by refining these sugars – maple syrup, palm sugar and raw sugar cane – but even then it was a rare treat. The average American man in the 1950s had the equivalent of sugar in a 12 oz. can of Coke – 7 teaspoons or 39g – in one entire year. How many Cokes are you guzzling in a DAY?
The psychology behind food is something I use when I talk to my private chef clients. A lot of people with digestive problems or food sensitivities or just trying to lose weight struggle with this. Their emotional need for certain foods is overriding their bodies needs! So what I do is – I still let them eat their favorite ‘cheat’ foods; but just healthier versions of them. It is actually really important to listen to what your body wants. Want fried chicken? Try chicken or tofu coated in egg or a chickpea flour + water mixture, then cornflakes (if you’re gluten-free), or breadcrumbs.
OR have that fried chicken, or chili cheese fries, kebab, fish and chips, or whatever it is you crave, but just have a half portion. And eat some cooked brocoli or a soup to fill up on fiber. Our body really does need that fat, and those contracting qualities can be found in salt and meat (I wrote about this in detail in an earlier post, Traditional Chinese Medicine Remedies.
Of course that does not come just from animal products – deep-fried and roasted foods bring in that feeling of comfort, warmth and balance, and keeps your digestive fire going – the yang. But of course if you go overboard, you can become inflamed, cranky, gain weight, have diarrhea and acne for example.
For the moment, you will crave all these high calorie foods – the carbs proteins and fats, and salt – white sugar, refined flours, refined oils, lots and lots of salt (remember the blood of animals is salty) – because it mimics what your body is trying to find. And it gets into the body quickly and satiates those signals temporarily.
That’s what happens when you drink diet soda – first of all the chemicals used in those artificial sweeteners can be carcinogenic and disrupt your digestion, but even worse is that it tastes sweet but is metabolized by your liver (as bad for you as alcohol!), but never really goes into your blood steam so you keep pressing that button like a lab rat for a hit of the good stuff, but are never satisfied.
As well as Stevia (which I personally don’t like the flavor of but is a good sugar substitute – only the natural kind) – it is 10 times sweeter than sugar. So it can REALLY ramp up and desensitize your sugar neurons! When possible, drink the real thing, with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. In my CARBOWHORE: A Chef’s Food Journey post, I explain more how sugars are part glucose and fructose. Glucose goes straight in the blood stream, fructose is metabolized by the liver.
You can remember this by thinking Fructose gets an F rating. And Glucose is Glenda, the Good Witch (sort of). Or F the Fructose. Hahaha. I guess maybe the Coca Cola Life is not that bad. Instead try some sparkling water with real fruit juice, or maybe some maple syrup and vanilla and lime juice in seltzer. How about some kombucha which I am so obsessed with and we make our own at my super-food vegan restaurant Graze and will be selling in organic markets in the south of France soon.
So. Anyways. Once you slowly introduce the foods that satiate your physical AND emotional needs, then you will slowly back off that toxic stuff.
But what I tell a lot of people is – eating healthy is NOT salad all day. On the contrary, cold, raw food according to the Chinese is just bad for the body, especially in winter – too cooling. As well as for pregnant women and those with fragile ecosystems, there is bacteria on raw vegetables, and they can be difficult to digest. As well as certain vegetables like carrots increase their beta-carotene absorption by up to 6 times when cooked. (Also make you sure you eat your carrots with a bit of fat to increase vitamin A absorption).
While we are on that topics, as you eat your spinach, kale and other dark leafy greens, the high oxalic acid content blocks your body’s absorption of calcium. So make sure you combine them with an acid like tomato sauce or unfiltered apple cider vinegar (homemade recipe so easy – throw apple cores and peels that you usually throw away in a big jar covered with water and some sugar. Cover loosely with a cloth and rubber band, and let it ferment for a few weeks. Voila! Homemade ACV (so bomb).
So next time you feel like reaching for that cookie, or fried chicken, think, what is it that you really need?
Sugar = Love
Bread = Satisfaction
Crunchy = Stop Thinking
Put that food down and try to do something else to fill your emotional needs – have a nice bath, call a friend, ask for a hug(!) or meditate and listen to music.
If you find you are still jonesing for something a little sweet or salty, make some roasted chickpeas or root veggies and then dip in a soy yogurt sauce like our famous Graze Tikka sauce. Creamy, satisfying but low fat with no added oils. Or if you want, plain yogurt, but be careful that it comes from a good source, and have small amounts because dairy can increase phlegm and sinus issues, irritate your digestion, and worsen acne and other skin conditions, and is generally just inflammatory. For me personally dairy is not my friend, but each person is different. Save the cows 🙁 Save your body.
I will leave you guys with some food porn to salivate over, smothered with our creamy, tikka sauce. Don’t forget, your favorite vegan cafe is still open during the CORONA QUARANTINE 😀 – order with us on UberEats JustEats or e-mail us firstname.lastname@example.org for custom meal delivery xx
For more about the science behind food addiction, check out this article here: https://greenerideal.com/news/health/0402-the-science-behind-food-addiction/