The psychology of food habits

People need food to survive and fuel their body with energy. However, sometimes people eat more than they actually need to survive. Food has the power to allow you to experience different feelings such as a sense of calm, happiness – even sadness and fear. Your energy levels and how alert you feel can be influenced by the food you consume.

You are what you eat. This statement you have heard before is truer than you might realise. If you eat healthy you feel good, but when you eat to manage stress, it can have effect on your health and wellbeing.

By making better food choices, you may be able to control compulsive eating behaviours and weight gain. This can be achieved through mindful choices and taking charge of your appetite through choosing foods which make you feel calm, high-energy levels and alert.

Behavioural influences

However, your eating behaviours can be influenced by a number of factors including cultural, evolution, social, economic, psychological and relationships. Food for many people is used as a coping mechanism to manage feelings of anxiety, stress, boredom and even happiness. Food may satisfy those feelings temporarily, but it can also lead to a feeling of regret after the fact.

Eating is not really dealing with those feelings of stress or anxiety; it is merely masking the root cause of your feelings. In the process of behavioural eating, you start to experience negative self-image in the form of weight gain and decreased health.

Cognitive behavioural treatment

Changing the way that you think about food and eating will allow you to recognise the negative influences preventing you from successfully eating healthy.

One way to help you learn is to use positive self-management affirmations. For example:

Instead of saying

  • This is too hard. I can’t do it.
  • If I don’t make it to my target weight, I’ve failed.


  • I need to understand what triggered my overeating, so I can create a plan to cope with it if I encounter the trigger again.
  • Am I really hungry or is this just a craving? I will wait to see if this feeling passes.

Using a food journal to understand your food choices

Through the use of a food journal, you can start to understand what you eat and why you eat it. In addition, you can also start to see the impact it has on your health and wellbeing.

The food journal is used to help you record what you eat, when you eat it, how you feel when you eat and even what you may be doing while you eat.

It is strongly recommended that your doctor or a qualified dietitian work with you to make any necessary changes if required.

Get your Food Journal and Mindful Eating guide

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting information on mindful eating. I have prepared a food journal which sets out a guide for not only how you can eat more mindfully but learn more about the triggers and impacts of food on your wellbeing.

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