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Emotional Eating – How Does Food Change Our Mood?

Updated: May 19

A picture of chocolate cupcakes.  These foods are favorites of a mind that wants to feel better quickly with a dopamine rush from sugar and fat,

Why does my brain do this?

The subconscious mind will always go towards pleasure and away from pain. If a emotion feels uncomfortable and undesirable (pain) then the mind will do what it can to change your emotional state.


The subconscious mind seeks to change your mood to a more enjoyable one (pleasure). One way it can achieve this quickly is to use an external source to change your state – food. It will often choose this way if it has memories of successfully changing your emotion state through food.



How does food change your mood

When we eat salty, sugary and fatty foods our brain rewards us by producing the chemical called dopamine, which makes us feel good. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter that is made by our body.  If we eat a lot of these rewarding foods, the brain makes more receptors for dopamine.



Success or sabotage?

In the short-term your subconscious has successfully changed your emotional state by introducing dopamine which makes you feel good.


Long term – The dopamine wears off and you return to the situation you experienced before. Often you return with the added realisation that you have sabotaged your efforts to eat well or stay in control.


The subconscious super computer

The subconscious mind is an efficient super computer with the sole purpose of keeping you protected and alive.  It processes information and judges’ situations incredibly quickly and it employs emotional eating is a fast and easy way to change your emotional state. The good news is that eating in this way is not the only way to change your emotional state.



Can I change this automatic behaviour?

The most successful way to change this behaviour is to re-program your subconscious mind so that it doesn’t railroad you into emotional eating, but there are some things you can do to interrupt this pattern and break the cycle.



  1. Recognise

When you sense yourself being railroaded into this behaviour tell yourself: ‘I know what this is, what my mind is trying to achieve and I can choose to do something else to change my emotional state’


  1. Stock up

Keep good snacks like nut or protein bars in the cupboard.  The protein will fill you up and leave you feeling sated so your brain sends signals to stop eating, much sooner than with carbohydrate and sugar foods.  Follow it with a glass of water because when you are dehydrated you increase the risk of feeling anxious and negative thinking.


  1. Do the maths

Your subconscious mind currently believes the equation:

Low mood + sweet/salty/fatty foods = good mood.

Decide what you want to be true instead, perhaps:

Low mood + nut/protein bar and distraction = good mood


  1. Imagine

Use your imagination to see yourself feeling low then recognise what is happening, then see yourself having a nut/protein bar and distracting yourself, leading to enjoying a different state. You choose what the distraction is, it could be a walk, phoning a friend or a drive.  Do this every day because imagination is a very powerful tool!



For assistance with updating the software of your super computer (subconscious mind) contact Samantha Grant, at the Marlow Club Wednesday and Saturday.  07919 577 512



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