I care about the connection between food and emotions because I have consumed a high-raw vegan diet for the over 4 years now. This diet has consisted of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, seaweed, and sprouts in their unheated, uncooked forms.
Eating a low-fat, raw vegan diet means exposure.
When you have no warm, comforting meal to cling onto, all you have is you, and your emotions.
You cannot run away, or step into a numbness of being through consuming heavy food.
You absolutely have to deal with yourself and your feelings in those moments.
Sure, sometimes comfort food is not a bad thing. It brings up a smile on our face, makes us remember old memories of our childhood. But sometimes, it functions as a way to grab control of our life, to be happy, and more accurately, to numb the loneliness, pain, fear, guilt, and shame we may all experience at times.
Many studies have found that diet can strongly impact emotions via the brain and nervous system, and at the same time, emotions can definitely impact your food choices as well. How could it be possible to eat healthy when your mind and emotions are not in the right place? One of the biggest obstacles to eating healthy, in addition to physical cravings for addictive foods like dairy products, is emotional eating.
Ignoring or Numbing Emotions with Food
Emotional eating is about drowning out your emotions with food. Not only is it a problem in terms of food choices, but it also leads to avoiding dealing with emotions. And this is a problem because these emotions, over time, will show up in other unfriendly forms in our bodies. They don’t just go away. Countless studies have demonstrated that prolonged emotional pain, stress, and trauma eventually end up in chronic pain.
What happens during trauma?
The nervous system is in survival mode, and has a hard time going back to normal. Stress hormones like cortisol are highly elevated, causing increased blood pressure and sugar, and this can reduce the strength of the immune system.
As a member of a Ukrainian household throughout my childhood, I was completely oblivious to this. In fact, I was oblivious to the existence of emotions, having been told that I need to “man up” most of my life, and just deal. Uncovering this research-based evidence on the link of stress, emotions, and physical sensations and health is revolutionary to me. And I don’t think I’m the only one.
Many societies today value work ethic, a brave face, and physical strength. Emotions are considered a female trait. They are seen as weak, undesirable, and perhaps, unnecessary. However, whether we like it or not, they are a huge part of our existence, and neglecting them means neglecting who we are. Moreover, noticing our emotions can lead to uncovering health issues, and conversely, noticing chronic pain in our bodies can lead us to better understand our emotional selves and the traumas we may have experienced. They can lead us to liberation, to connecting with the perfect meal plan for us, and to understanding our needs better.
A Note about Supporting Emotions with Diet
A good diet can help minimize the impact of trauma and other stressors on the body, and it also helps the body become more resilient after such experiences. In order to handle outside stressors to the body, and their impact on you which can be measured by the body’s reaction to them, the body needs a strong brain and nervous system.
According to a 2010 study in Nutrition Journal, vegetarians experience “significantly less negative emotion than omnivores”. Part of this is the fact that vegans experience better overall health than omnivores, but another part is arachidonic acid.
Arachidonic acid is metabolized in the body to produce inflammation (that’s how drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin work).
Arachidonic acid is responsible for the production of inflammatory compounds in the body, which negatively impact mood through a cascade of neuro inflammation, or brain inflammation, caused by your diet.
Arachidonic acid is also primarily found in animal products.
Another important piece of the puzzle are minerals. For example, calcium, magnesium and zinc are three elements that impact the health of our nervous system. Calcium can help reduce irritability of the nervous system, zinc helps with emotional stability, while magnesium works as a sedative, often taken before bed for calmness.
So What Do I do Now?
Now that you know this information, and understand the undeniable connection between the emotional body and the food we eat, you can do quite a lot about it.
If you want to prevent yourself from emotional eating, or if you have persistent pain in your body and you have not been diagnosed with any illness, or if you just want to be healthy and whole, listen to your feelings.
Instead of putting them away, ignoring them, watching a movie or forcing yourself to be happy and give gratitude when you feel horrible, don’t. Just feel horrible. Feel horrible for as long as you need to. Experience the pain, sadness, and anger in you, and feel it fully. This is the only way to release these emotions, and releasing them completely will allow you to eat the foods that you need to eat, and live the life you want to live while always being connected to yourself and your needs.
Have you ever had a good long cry and felt amazing afterwards?
That is what I am suggesting you do. Feel your emotions fully, and you will feel magnificent rewards.
Sure, the road is long and tough. I for one can tell you that it’s very challenging for me to allow myself to feel, and I always prefer to hide in my work. But we can all work towards it, especially after knowing the scientific evidence that suggests how critical this is to our health.
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