How Food Impacts Health
Food clearly impacts physical health. Not meeting your body’s nutritional needs can cause low energy, nutrient and vitamin deficiencies, and a variety of medical concerns. But most people don’t consider how food impacts other types of health, which can leave them feeling disconnected and depressed.
There are many types of health, in addition to physical health, and it’s necessary to be aware of the true role of food.
Food and eating significantly impact mental and social health. It’s important to not sacrifice one type of health for another, and viewing food as only relevant to physical health can quickly create other health problems. When we look at food as something to be restricted or controlled for weight loss, we miss the social and emotional benefits of food.
Food is meant to be enjoyed! Making rules about good or bad food takes the pleasure out of eating and negatively impacts health.
We lose enjoyment of food when we make food choices based on what we “should” eat or what has the lowest calories rather than intuitively listening to what our body needs. When we struggle to follow diets or break food rules, we’re at risk for feeling guilty and shameful.
Research suggests that having critical thoughts and judgment around food negatively impacts mental health, while practicing flexibility and compassion can improve self-worth and happiness. Additionally, adequate and balanced eating helps prevent anxiety and depression and makes us more effective at managing difficult emotions.
Food is also social and many social events and cultural traditions center around eating.
Getting lunch with friends or celebrating a special occasion with a meal are important ways to make memories. Strict diets and food rules make it difficult to connect with others or be flexible with eating times and places. Also, when we are concerned about making “bad” food choices, counting calories, or worried about our weight, it can be tough to be fully present with our friends and enjoy time together.
Healthy eating isn’t just about nutrition. Don’t miss out on the important emotional and social aspects of eating by only focusing on eating “healthier.”