As many of you are aware, it can be challenging to have a satisfying long-term relationship with food. In our lifetime, it is normal to have a period when we overeat or undereat. Even if you are never diagnosed with an eating disorder, you may have had a time you could not stop eating despite your full stomach or a day you could not eat at all due to some shocking incidents. Today, I will write about the underline issue between mental health and appetite.
What is happening in our mind when we overeat or undereat?
Overeating: When you keep eating even though you know it is not a good idea, it seems like the situation is out of your control. On the contrary, your brain most likely believes it is in total control of your mind and body. This is because your brain is focusing too much on satisfying your hunger to the point that it misses the fact that you have reached the limit. Why does this happen? It is not completely clear, but my guess is that you felt out of control earlier that day or that week because something negative happened. Therefore, your brain was looking for another way to meet your needs. Food is one of the easiest objects to acquire for this purpose. Your brain also knows that it can certainly fulfill your desire. The stronger the frustration was, the more food you would need in order to make up for the lack of pleasure your brain needed but could not obtain earlier.
Undereating: How about undereating? It can be more complicated than overeating, but I think the mechanism is the same. When we look at this phenomenon from the same perspective, the keyword here is control. Undereating can be dieting, which is intentional undereating. This behavior may or may not be a serious issue, but it is literally your intention to control your body. Other times, undereating means you cannot eat or don’t have an appetite even when you know you need to eat. If the cause is solely psychological, you may be trying to control your emotions by not eating. This can be explained by the following subconscious motivations 1. your brain may be trying not to feel emotions or basic human desires (including hunger) because it is too scary for you to have them. 2. you may be thinking you don’t deserve to live, so you’re trying to control your life by not eating. 3. you may be trying to punish yourself because you could not achieve certain goals or meet someone’s expectations.
As you can see, the eating issue is probably not about how hungry you are. Oftentimes, it is about how unhappy you are. So, if you want to have a good relationship with food, it is essential to ask yourself questions like these:
“What am I frustrated with?” “What am I missing?” “Who do I want to complain?”
If the answers to these questions are already clear or you have figured out the cause of your distress, then you can try your best to solve that issue. Food issues can be a camouflage of your true problem. If so, as long as you avoid facing the original problem, your brain will keep trying to satisfy your mind and body in the wrong way.