The Food As Fuel Mindset

Most people would argue that food not only nourishes the body, but also the soul. That’s the great thing about eating something you love! Could this feel-good relationship with food ever go too far?

In the case of emotional eating, it might. Also known as stress eating, this is when we eat in order to settle feelings other than physical hunger. We all know what that’s like!

The emotions and sensations we try to bury with our taste buds may include boredom, procrastination, anxiety, stress, sadness, anger, and more. We may succeed at covering these up, but the potential impacts of eating when our bodies don’t need food should be noted:

  • Weight gain: It’s easy to stack on the calories and kilos if we eat haphazardly throughout the day, binge eat large servings, and choose unhealthy foods during these times of stress.

  • Overall health: Emotional eating often means indulging in foods that satisfy sweet, salty, comfort cravings. If this means having processed, fatty, low-nutrient foods, then we are setting ourselves up for poor health and the possibility of chronic disease.

  • Digestive health: The more often we reach for the cookie jar throughout the day, the less time our stomach and digestive organs (e.g. pancreas, gallbladder, liver) have to breakdown our previous meals and rest afterwards.

  • Escapist mentality: Are you eating to avoid dealing with an unaddressed emotion, a dreaded task, or an aversion to being present? It’s better to deal with the feelings at hand than let them stack up in the closet.

It’s possible to shift your perspective on food while still enjoying the experience of eating. And adopting the “food as fuel" mindset might be one way to do it.

This approach to eating follows a simple equation:

The food we put into our body = The fuel that gets us through the day

Pretty straightforward. If we look at it this way, then the quality of the food we eat really matters. For example, if we want sustained energy and vibrant health, we might choose clean proteins, healthy complex carbs, wholegrains, and loads of fruit and veg.

But if we choose fast food, processed meats, oily and sugary treats, and over indulge on stimulants like energy drinks, then our bodies will likely not run as efficiently.

Could this approachable perspective help you combat emotional eating? 

You might look at eating differently. This new perspective would give you a chance to ask yourself: does my body really need this food right now?

A chance to view your food differently. We often don’t think about food after it leaves our mouths. But our experience with it goes far beyond what we usually notice as taste and texture. Thinking more holistically about what you eat means you may put more consideration into when and what you consume.

What next?

If you think this simple approach might help you, here are a few more tips to get you going.

  1. Educate yourself on healthy eating—and check out our Fuel topic in WellHub.

  2. Before you reach for food ask: Am I really hungry?

  3. When you’re emotional or bored, use mindfulness techniques to crack the craving—visit our Mindset area for ideas.

Emotional eating may be a tough habit to break, but persistence and a new perspective might do it.

Should you feel that you need professional advice and support, reach out to organisations such as The Butterfly Foundation or start by talking to friends and family.