What is your relationship with food?
Food is an integral part of our lives, a vital need that helps us grow, provides us with our daily energy and regularly brings us pleasure. However, food can also be a source of great concern and risk behaviours, both for physical and mental health. This questionnaire will allow you to evaluate your relationship with food and to better understand the stakes of a healthy diet.
1. How does feeding work?
In a healthy functioning, eating is based on two principles: hunger and satiety. These are two physical sensations that alternate with time and meals.
Hunger is the signal that tells us we need to eat. It varies in intensity, from a slight pit in the stomach to painful cramps and sometimes even nausea. It’s an unpleasant sensation that makes us act to make it go away.
That action is food.
As you eat, the feeling of hunger disappears and is replaced by satiety, a pleasant feeling of satisfaction and relaxation. It will last for some time before disappearing. No sensation is present for a few hours before hunger returns, more or less quickly depending on the quality of the previous meal.
This cycle repeats itself indefinitely throughout our lives
Satiety takes into account the quality and quantity of food consumed. Sensors on the tongue and in the throat, as well as the distension of the stomach, play a role in the calculation of satiety and allow us to have a nutritional and caloric intake that corresponds, more or less, to our real needs.
2. What factors affect nutrition?
As with all psychological difficulties, it is difficult to pin the blame on one particular factor. However, a common element can be observed in the majority of eating disorders: not listening to your body’s signals anymore.
Whether in deprivation or in overeating, the signals of hunger and satiety are ignored, which leads to a disruption of the cycle.
The question to ask is: what are the factors that lead to ignoring hunger and satiety? There are many, here are some of them:
- The pace of modern life: to allow time for satiety to appear, it is important to eat slowly and chew well. Between 10 and 15 chews are required per bite for most solid foods. The expectations of modern life, whether due to work or other personal factors, make this number much lower. Meal times are short, thoughts turn to other concerns, and attention to what is being eaten goes out the window, which can lead to under- or over-eating.
- Beauty canons: if you’ve ever had a complex about your summer body, thought about dieting, watched your food and calories, then you know what I’m talking about. Thinness and thinness are beauty arguments that are sold in all sorts of ways. Weight loss is a lucrative market, and a lucrative market means little ethical consideration. Restrictive diets never work in the long term and can lead to disruptions in the eating cycle and even to eating disorders. Appetite suppressant” or “fat burning” supplements are, at best, ineffective, and at worst, harmful to your body’s rhythm.
- Stress and anxiety: food is comforting, especially fatty and sweet foods that bring in lots of dopamine, the reward hormone. In complicated emotional situations, food can be a valuable aid for some in keeping their heads above water. If this behavior is occasional, it can be adapted (eating a pot of ice cream following a breakup is not a problem) but when it is generalized to all sources of stress and negative emotions of daily life, that is when the disorder begins.
3. What are the forms of eating disorders?
Eating disorders come in many forms.
Restriction consists of limiting caloric intake, most often by counting calories or grams, in order to be in a caloric deficit, i.e. below the amount of energy needed to live. The primary goal is often weight loss, but it can also come from a need to control one’s life, one’s body. Caloric restriction can be extremely gratifying at the beginning, with a functioning close to addiction. The feeling of control and the satisfaction of weight loss form a combination that can lead to serious disorders.
Over-control is similar to restriction in that it brings a sense of control over an area of life, which can be extremely satisfying. However, unlike restriction, the goal is not to be in a caloric deficit, but to have an “ideal” diet that adheres to strict rules and does not stray from them. This is a trend that is increasingly found in the sports world but which is also promoted by wellness influencers. These diets are not necessarily harmful to health but the over-control can bring a lot of anxiety or guilt when the dietary rules cannot be respected, which can lead to downward spirals in eating and mental health.
Lack of control
Lack of control is often related to a desire to control one’s eating, with behaviors that resemble those of restriction or over-control, but this deprivation generates growing frustration that eventually spills over into eating crises.
The lack of control is also reflected at the time of the classic meals, where the body signals are ignored. The meal does not end with satiety but when another form of satisfaction is reached.
Emotional eating is a way of managing emotions, especially unpleasant ones, through food. Fear and anxiety, sadness, anger and boredom are the main emotions that are managed by food. The reward provided by food will calm and soothe the emotion and help bring back a state of calm. As mentioned earlier, this technique of managing emotions can be adapted when it is rare and punctual. When it becomes habitual, it can degenerate into a hyperphagic disorder or cause dysregulation in the hunger-satiety cycle.