Psychological Eating Habits

Psychological Eating Habits

Donna Hayek, RD

FUEL: Eating foods to support the body’s needs; such as real, whole, natural, unprocessed food that gives the body energy and nourishment. Should be eaten 80% of the time.

FUN: Foods that we love to eat that taste good but don’t give the body any nutritional value. Should be eaten 20% of the time.

FOG:  Eating without awareness. Food is not enjoyable or purposeful. Should NEVER be eaten.

STORM: Binge-eating or out of control eating. You want to stop, but can’t. Often eating in private or hiding food from others. Afterward, you feel regret and shame. Should NEVER be eaten.

Psychological eating is compulsive eating or binge-eating and often stressful eating that leads to overeating and weight gain. This type of eating is often associated with negative feelings towards food.

How do we stop this behavior?  By balancing eating habits:

  • Do not diet
  • Do not skip meals
  • Practice mindfulness/yoga
  • Keep hydrated
  • Increase fiber foods
  • Discontinue “junk” (processed) foods
  • Workout when bored
  • Eat breakfast
  • Get enough quality sleep
  • Increase protein foods
  • Plan meals and snacks
  • Limit late night eating
  • Portion control with “My Plate”
  • Keep a food & mood journal
  • Talk to a friend or seek professional help

Stress eating or mindless eating comes from cravings for  “junk foods”or “comfort foods”  such as sweet or salty foods that give your body an instant rush. It comes on suddenly and needs to be satisfied instantly. It often feels as though you can’t stop thinking about the food. You’re hyper-focused on the texture, taste, and smell of the food. 

Your body is unaware that you’ve eaten the “whole thing” because you didn’t enjoy it fully. A feeling of dissatisfaction overcomes you, and the body wants more until you can’t eat another bite. It leads to regret, guilt and shame. 

Mindless eating is often caused by stress, buried emotions, boredom, depression, anxiety, exhaustion or childhood habits, and can feel like a restless cycle.

How can you manage stress eating?

  • Identifying personal triggers
  • Keeping a food & mood diary
  • Finding other ways to fulfill emotions
  • Pause & think for a few minutes to see if it goes away
  • Learn to accept the feelings
  • Indulge without overeating by savoring the food 
  • Practice mindful eating by eating slower & tasting the food
  • Exercise 
  • Sleep
  • Relax
  • Connect with friends

Symptoms of Food Addiction:

  • Getting cravings despite feeling full
  • Eating much more than intended
  • Eating until “stuffed”
  • Feeling guilty afterwards
  • Making excuses
  • Failure with setting rules
  • Hiding while eating
  • Unable to quit

How to Develop a Healthy Relationship with Food:

  • Give yourself unconditional permission to eat
  • Eat when hungry
  • Practice mindful eating
  • Welcome all foods into the diet
  • Stick to “My Plate” 

Why do we crave something sweet after eating dinner?

  • Nutrients are missing in the meal
  • Habitual
  • Denying yourself sweets

Why do we crave salty food when we are hungry?

  • Dehydration
  • Chronic stress
  • Migraines
  • Certain medications (that affect the adrenal gland)
  • Certain conditions; such as Addison’s disease & Cystic fibrosis that lose sodium