Feeding The Mind With Food

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Last week I introduced you to Being Fat and the Two State Mind Theory which looked at physical state eating and mind state eating.   This week I want to concentrate on "˜Mind State Eating' and how we can stop feeding our Mind State and start feeding our Physical State.

emotional_eatingWhy do we eat?

That might sound like a silly question, however, we eat for lots of different reasons and there are many factors which influence our eating habits:

  • Cultural factors
  • Evolutionary factors
  • Social factors
  • Familial factors
  • Individual factors

From the list above I'd like to talk about individual factors, meaning we as individuals decide to eat what we eat and why we eat.

As discussed in the first part of this article a lot of people eat for emotional reasons, I know I do sometimes and it's amazing how being aware of emotional eating can help to change the behaviour.   In the long term emotional eating doesn't work but it seems like a great short term fix for coping with the way we feel sometimes.   I say great, but I really mean it feels as though it feeds our emotion at the time of eating, although other feelings of guilt, anger, depression may arise soon after, and the consequences of long term emotional eating can be harmful physically and mentally.

How do we recognise emotional eating?

  • Mind state hunger comes on suddenly; physical state hunger occurs gradually.
  • When you are mind state hungry your foods are usually linked to a specific emotion.   So, if you are happy you might eat pizza, if you are sad you might eat ice cream, when you are bored you might eat biscuits.   However, when you are physically hungry you will be open to filling a real hunger and therefore open to options.
  • Mind state hunger needs to be satisfied "˜RIGHT NOW' whereas physical state hunger can wait a little longer as it is a gradual process.
  • when you are eating from the mind state you tend to keep eating even when you have gone past the stage of being full.   When you are eating from the physical state mind you usually stop eating when you are full.
  • Mind state eating can leave feelings of guilt as you might feel you should not be eating.   When you are eating from the physical mind state you do not feel that guilt.

How do we stop emotional eating?

This is the million dollar question.   There are a number of ways we can start to control our behaviour of emotional eating:


This is one of the ways I have found works best for me, but it doesn't mean to say it will work for you.   Awareness is all about being aware of why you are eating and what you are eating and when.

For example you might eat ice cream when you are feeling sad.   You might eat chocolate on a Friday night, curled up on the couch and watching a movie with the family.   You might eat pastry as a quick snack meal and on and on it goes.   Become aware of what you are eating and when.

Alternate you statement

Before you reach for the pastry, or the biscuit or the ice cream ask yourself 1 question "˜Am I hungry?'as soon as you ask yourself this question immediately follow it up with an "˜Alternate you' statement such as   "˜I am 200 pounds and don't eat pastry'   – the statement should be what you want your ideal weight to be and should include the food type you are reaching for.

Do this every time you go to eat something.   You are no expecting to give up food altogether it's just to make you aware of how often you are eating.   The more you ask yourself the question the more you are emotionally eating.

I always allow myself a day off, usually movie night on a Friday night when I can eat what I want, however, I have found I eat much less even on the day I can have anything.

Urge Control:

Urge control is used a lot in the alcohol field when clients with alcohol issues are not drinking but get a lot of urges and cravings.   Urges are different from cravings in that they are weaker and a little easier to control than a craving.

Urge control involves distraction techniques.   As soon as you get the urge to eat something you need to find something else to do for the next 15 minutes (the length of time it can take to get over an urge).   An urge is simply a thought that pops into your head which turns into a statement in your mind telling your brain you want a biscuit, or some ice cream.   If we interrupt the thought and push it aside with another distraction, the urge should go away.

Examples of distractions are:

  • Read a good book or magazine or listen to music.
  • Go for a walk or jog.
  • Do some meditation.
  • Talk to a friend.
  • Do housework, washing or get out in the garden.
  • Wash the car.
  • Write a letter.
  • Or do any other pleasurable or necessary activity until the urge to eat passes.

Food diary:

This is another great way to get a visual representation of what you are eating on any given day.   The only thing is you have to be completely honest with yourself.

You can either print out your food diary and look at it that way or you can join a social weight loss site and input your daily food intake such as

The great thing about a food diary is you can't cheat at it unless you want to cheat yourself.   You can either count the calories, the carbs, the fat, etc and go on a more measured approach to eating.

If you want to print out a food diary instead I have made a sample here for you Free Food Diary


As you can see there are lots of reasons why we eat what we eat and why we eat when we eat, and it is rarely because we are genuinely hungry.   Emotional eating has become an epidemic and the evidence for it is becoming clear and will only get worse over the years.   I am only learning about emotional eating and it's making a difference and I hope this article will spur you on to look into this as well.

As ever I love hearing your thoughts on this, good or bad.

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About the author

Steven Aitchison

Steven Aitchison is the author of The Belief Principle and an online trainer teaching personal development and online business.  He is also the creator of this blog which has been running since August 2006.