I LOVE food! I have always enjoyed eating, even being a professional ballet dancer did not stop me from enjoying food! When I am cooking my lunch I am already thinking about what to have for dinner. When I go to sleep I want to sleep super fast so it is breakfast time again!! Variety of options, vibrant colours of veggies and fruits, different tastes, inspiring dishes from across the world!! Oh, how this beautiful planet delights us with amazing food!
So how does food make us happy? Where does this happiness come from?
It is our survival instinct to take the food and transform it into energy and power. Areas in our brain that help regulate eating and hunger signal the release of dopamine after food intake. This creates a feeling of well-being and positive reinforcement. Through this process, we want to repeat this behaviour to ‘feel good’ again. This is how our body and brain work together in our reward system. Food can easily become a reward and if we crave the food of the modern world, we may be faced with overeating.
Following diets and restricting ourselves from food can create a complex in which dopamine is released when hunger occurs. Endorphins are released to protect the body and brain from starving pain. Leaving our body hungry makes us feel good for a short while, although we are not actually doing anything good at all. Both overeating or not eating properly can make us feel depressed, tired and unhappy in the long run, and they become a threat to our health.
There are many factors that affect your food choices. How much time do you have? How much does a meal cost? Do you cook for yourself or do you need to prepare different meals for everyone in the house? Who is with you when it’s time to eat? What do they eat? How fast do they eat? … We adapt to each other’s behaviour. And when everyone behaves similarly, we adapt it to ourselves.
Our mind wanders from topic to topic while eating! Did you realise that? Either you get lost in thoughts, maybe you are on your phone scrolling on the Internet, you can follow the news, or you may be watching TV while you eat. Eating and doing something else simultaneously becomes an automatic behaviour quickly. However, eating should not be something that happens to us without our awareness. Eating should be experienced as a feast where we accept gifts from nature. While eating we should be aware of it and the experience we receive with our body through taste and smell to the fullest!
Mindful eating is one of the joyful practices you can bring into your life. Studies show that people who eat mindfully develop healthier eating habits. (National Institutes of Health and American Psychosomatic Association). Eating mindfully also has great results on our metabolism. Our metabolism converts food into energy to nourish our daily life. Eating regularly and consciously is crucial to making healthier food choices and also to feel satisfied and full of joy. By developing healthy eating habits and eating regularly, we keep our blood sugar under control and have energy throughout the day without craving for quick energy sources like sugary treats and savoury snacks.
If you’re currently filling your plate with lots of colourful vegetables and fruits, you already have the benefit of a better mood. Research suggests that “healthy” food choices such as eating fruit and vegetables have not only physical but mental health benefits and can be a long-term investment in future well-being.
Eating shouldn’t just be something we need to do to keep ourselves going. Food is actually where the joy is! Getting food for our bodies should be a ritual in which we honour our body and the time we spend with ourselves. Taking 10-15 minutes to slow down to eat, sit and enjoy your meal gives you an experience of gratitude. When you eat carefully, you leave the table energetic and full of joy. Eating healthy not only keeps your body better at dealing with illness, aging and stress, it also makes you a happier person in the long run!
Wahl, Deborah R et al. “Healthy food choices are happy food choices: Evidence from a real life sample using smartphone based assessments.” Scientific reports vol. 7,1 17069. 6 Dec. 2017, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-17262-9
Conner, Tamlin S et al. “Let them eat fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial.” PloS one vol. 12,2 e0171206. 3 Feb. 2017,
Mujcic, Redzo, and Andrew J Oswald. “Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables.” American journal of public health vol. 106,8 (2016): 1504-10. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303260
How eating disorders affect the neurobiology of the brain. (n.d.). Retrieved September 06, 2017, from https://www.emilyprogram.com/blog/how-eating-disorders-affect-the-neurobiology-of-the-brain