Social Question

nebule's avatar

Why do you think we eat to push our feelings down?

Asked by nebule (16446points) April 4th, 2010

We all know that a lot of us eat when stressed, tired, emotional, afraid…hell sometimes even when we feel sick with overwhelming feelings….

What do you think is the reason is for this strange phenomenon? – biological, psychological, emotional, mental, philosophical – throw it into the proverbial pot for us to chew on….

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30 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

I think it has all the hallmarks of any other addiction (especially in that the behaviors correlate with stress.)

The problem is, that one is not required to drink alcohol or take heroin in order to live, but one must pretty much eat every day.

slick44's avatar

Maybe somehow it fills a void, or we use it as a distraction. very interesting ques. I look forward to seeing what others have to say.

nebule's avatar

…problem is…the void thing… it isn’t a physical void is it…it’s probably more of a conceptual void if how to the two translate…. how do they meet across the conceptual divide as such?? you can’t fill something that is not physically empty with physical fullness can you?... makes no sense to me

crankywithakeyboard's avatar

Biological-food tastes good and the chemicals in it can relax us. Overdosing on carbohydrates to calm down is an example.

Emotional-some feelings are seemingly too painful to confront

At least these have been my reasons.

Storms's avatar

Because it feels good.

sweetteaindahouse's avatar

I don’t eat to push down feelings. I eat because the food I eat is good and I get hungry.

gemiwing's avatar

Dopamine baby, dopamine. We love being happy. Freakish yet true.

off to eat more chocolate bunny.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Tragic relationship some have with food. It is always there to fill the void, to neutralize the pain, nurse the boredom and quell the anger. How fulfilling it is to swallow whatever is delicious tasting and feel it sliding down your throat and easing the pain. What is even sadder is that in most cases the harm it all causes adds to all the pain as the awful symptoms of overeating emerge.
It is undoubtedly the way for many to face all the demons they are fighting with by feeding their fears. It is exactly what everyone here has said. An anagelsic, temporary painkiller,numbing aid which eventually “eats you” after you have eaten it.

nimarka1's avatar

i think its all mental. Food makes us feel good and comfortable. When we are down, even though we aren’t hungry, eating things that taste good make us “feel” better, make us feel safe again, even for a moment. We hope it might get our minds off whatever is happening because it tastes good, and we hope we may feel too “busy” chewing to remember what happened.

jazmina88's avatar

why do they call it comfort food!!!

mollypop51797's avatar

Because food tastes and feels good, and hurt doesn’t. It’s a distraction form our troubles.

davidbetterman's avatar

“Why do you think we eat to push our feelings down?”

The lack of love (which is sometimes pushed upon us) causes us to push our feelings down leaves an emptiness which some people unconsciously attempt to fill with food.

lloydbird's avatar

Because food tastes good.
At times of sadness, we crave goodness.
Good tasting food is an easy option for satisfying such cravings.
Depending on your circumstances.

Mariah's avatar

I’m going to offer up my opinion as somebody with a rather uncommon point of view – I once went ~50 days without eating. I was on intravenous nutrition to deal with digestive problems. It’s not a happy time to look back on. You don’t realize how comforting eating is until you try not doing it. Seriously – the simple act of chewing something up and swallowing it is something your body expects will happen every few hours or so; it kind of freaks out when that doesn’t happen. Obviously eating is one of our most primal instincts, and trying to go against that is rough.

Why does eating make us feel emotinally good? I think it’s mostly biological. It’s an evolutionary advantage to want food. I mean, imagine if you never felt hungry. You could starve to death without realizing anything was wrong. The emotional comfort that eating brings may just be another motivator.

thriftymaid's avatar

Because it is something we can control.

anartist's avatar

Same reason we drink. Only drinking does a better job.

doctiresquire's avatar

stess causes your stomach to become upset…food puts your stomach to work ..kinda keeps it busy so it doesn`t know its supposed to be upset

Just_Justine's avatar

Conditioning? I remember when things were upset in our household we would make a cup of tea. I drink gallons of tea today. Perhaps if my mother had added a biscuit I’d be chomping through a box a day? I was not brought up to find comfort in food and so I don’t. The only comfort I remember my parents offering in the form of food was on a very cold day hot soup was good.

vanausdr's avatar

It’s a good distraction. When times get stressful and one’s mind is turning with little direction or when there is a feeling of loss or boredom, eating provides this sense of control or purpose, even if that purpose is simply chewing food. And it’s like the sugars to which we seem to turn in desperation provide a little metabolic rush, emotional comfort, or satisfaction when there seems to be nothing else. Personally, I wish I didn’t find comfort in food, but at times it does get hard to control. I think it is quite shameful actually.

LunaChick's avatar

I know I do (which is why I’m fat) My friend, Jim, used to say “food is my friend” (he had a weight problems as well) In a way he was right – food offers a comfort, but it is also dangerous, especially when you gain and gain. I know I need to break this habit of unhealthy eating, but it’s easier said than done.

nebule's avatar

@LunaChick Do you have evident emotional problems?
@Just_Justine I do wonder how much of it is conditioned. I know food was always a reward for us children as we were growing up and we had sweets every day. What kind of tea do you drink incidentally?
@doctiresquire is this based on biology? what happens to all the stressful energy in the stomach? is it churned up there waiting to reappear when the stomach calms down…or is it dissipated?
@thriftymaid see I would have said that eating is something is can’t control… when I’m emotional certainly anyway… but I do see what you mean…I’m still choosing to load my body with food aren’t I?!
@Mariah Are you ok now? What is you diet like? Do you eat for emotional reasons at all? I understand the evolutionary perspective certainly but that wouldn’t explain why we eat emotionally… those who do it are certainly at an evolutionary disadvantage aren’t they.
@davidbetterman yes I agree, but how does that mental concept of lack of love translate into a physical emptiness in the stomach? I mean even if we look at love being a physical thing through contact, one could say that one needs a hug…holding… but that still doesn’t quite hit the spot like a huge bar of chocolate and three packets of crisps does it?...
@mollypop51797 I’m thinking distraction has something to do with it too…
@gemiwing can I have some please? xx :-)
@crankywithakeyboard now that’s interesting too!!

Just_Justine's avatar

@lynneblundell I drink regular tea, with skim milk no sugar (of course!!). My parents were odd that way we had no fizzy drinks, no fake drinks, no sugar no sweets no biscuits or cake. There was only ever fruit and water to drink or tea. Considering they were ancient I mean they recently past on at age 80 and 76 I think they were a bit ahead of their time. They also complained if I went out into the sun. My dad was a no fat freak. He would boil his mince for example, cool it and take off all the fat, then boil again with stock. My parents were always in shape. My dad worked out but never my mom she was just slim, her mother was obese I think I inherited her genes! Oh and I drink tons of water.

thriftymaid's avatar

@lynneblundell Yes you are. But you are in control of whether to load up or not. Whatever caused the negative feelings is most likely not something you can control.

Mariah's avatar

@lynneblundell I’m actually doing extremely well now, less than a year after the fact. My disease is in remission and, believe it or not, when it’s in remission I can pretty much eat whatever I want, no problems. I still maintain a diet that’s generally healthy, but I don’t have any real restrictions on what I can eat in terms of dealing with my disease. I’m very lucky. And oh goodness yes, I eat for emotional reasons, haha.

When thinking about evolution you have to understand that it works very, very slowly and the traits that evolution gave us are traits that were advantageous 10,000ish years ago. Obesity certainly wasn’t a problem back then; starving to death was far more common. So having the desire to eat – for any reason at all – was an advantage.

lonelydragon's avatar

Because the physical comfort of eating food is easier to attain than emotional resolution. You can’t go to the pantry or the grocery store shelf and get happiness or love when you need it, but the cookies will always be there. It’s a stable, reliable source of comfort and distraction. Enjoying a piece of chocolate candy or a bottle of wine will temporarily take our minds off whatever ails us. Mind you, I’m not saying that emotional eating is a healthy way to cope with problems.

doctiresquire's avatar


LunaChick's avatar

@lynneblundell – Yes, I have depression. I get depressed and I eat, then I feel guilty for eating and I get depressed – vicious cycle.

doctiresquire's avatar

you were made to eat have a job here on earth ,,eat it ..lets not be getting distracted ,,and get back to work…like cows in a pasture

TheOnlyException's avatar

We also eat when we are bored, and the boredom maybe leads us to think deeply about things that we’d rather not face, the food keeps us occupied. Thats my experience of it anyway.
I find sometimes now, if I am watching TV or listening to music or reading a book, I can’t let the subject take my mind up completely and that frightens me I know it sounds silly because my mind wanders to thoughts about my future and life and death and really deep issues that frighten me. But if I am eating, I am occupied, completely, even something little, I enjoy the taste and the sensation and I don’t stop to worry, not once.

I am not an ‘emotional eater’ in that I am not overweight because of this. But I have a problem with food in that way and I have taken notice of it.
But then when I realise I am doing it I barely eat anything for weeks and that makes me feel in control and is also another way to occupy my mind. It’s really odd. I can’t be happy ‘between’ the two extremes/

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