Food For the Soul

People are currently spending a lot of time at home. Preparing and enjoying food takes on a whole new meaning. Nutritionists know how to make the most of it

As we are currently limited when it comes to socializing. It is therefore all the more important to turn to the things that are currently possible and do us good – the little joys of everyday life that are otherwise often lost in the busy hustle and bustle. For example: cooking at home. Some people remember recipes that they always wanted to try, but never had time for. Others cook old family recipes or friends’ favorite recipes. Cooking shows on TV and on social media provide input and change.

Enjoyable and Relaxing

Food keeps body and soul together, an important effect, especially in difficult times. Because food originally served purely for survival, over time it became increasingly cultural and emotional.

Meals together provide solidarity. Regional and national dishes show a unique identity in larger groups. You can set yourself apart from others through sophistication. Vegan or hearty: what and how we eat expresses style, taste, and our self-image.

“At the moment we have a great opportunity to break out of previous routines. Above all, from the habit of only eating on the side in a hurry to get somehow full,” says Christoph Klotter, professor of health and nutritional psychology at Fulda University of Applied Sciences. “In deceleration, we can rediscover food as a very exciting field.”

Daily Family Reunion

So far, empirical data has shown the trend to cook less and less yourself. You can now turn that around by taking more time to celebrate your meal. His advice: “Prepare meals together: with your partner, with your children. And then eat in a calm and beautiful atmosphere with a tablecloth and candles.”

And: switch off interference factors! Mobile phones should not be on the table while eating and the television should not be running alongside. It’s about getting involved on the plate without distraction to the taste of things.

Historically, meals have always been a fixed meeting place for families, an act of finding and keeping together. Finding a way back to this is quite an opportunity, the nutrition psychologist believes. To notice again, that it is important to get psychologically charged up, by eating, by exchanging ideas with others or by relaxing.

Eyes, Heart, and Nose Can Also Go Hungry

Eating and drinking affect the emotional state. We eat not only out of hunger, but also to celebrate, to reward ourselves, to comfort or to relax. To make the functions of eating clear, the concept of “seven types of hunger” helps, explains Monika Bischoff.

The oecotrophologist heads the center for nutritional medicine and prevention at the Barmherzige Brüder hospital in Munich. In addition to the “eye hunger” that arises when looking at food, or the smell-oriented “nose hunger”, there are also forms that are more of a psychological nature.

This is the case with “heart hunger”, for example, when you are lonely, bored, or scared. Everyone knows the effect that noodles make you happy and chocolate helps against frustration and stress. Certain ingredients affect the brain. Studies show that our mood is affected by the intestines: signals from the gastrointestinal tract affect mood, emotions, learning, and memory in various ways.

Eating is Not a Permanent Comforter

It becomes problematic when there is no alternative to the mood-enhancing functions of eating. When everything revolves around the next meal and feeding becomes the only compensation for negative feelings. “Eating is the best emotion manager” Klotter points out.

Eating Disorders: When Thoughts Are Only About Food

Eating can be wonderful. However, if at some point the thoughts and emotions turn only around this topic, an eating disorder can be the reason. This is not about occasionally having too much or too little on the plate, but rather a permanently disturbed intake or refusal of food. There is a risk of uncontrolled weight gain or loss, and malnutrition with serious long-term health problems.

Eating disorders are very diverse: eating addiction, binge eating, vomiting (bulimia), or anorexia. The compulsion to eat a maximally healthy diet (orthorexia) can also become a problem. What they have in common is that those affected often no longer find their way back to normal eating behavior on their own and need therapeutic support.

Whenever one feels stressed, sad, or scared, many choose fatty and sugary foods that provide comfort and calm. Now and then, crawling on the sofa with a chip bag or box of chocolates is perfectly fine, says Klotter. But this should never become permanent.

Observe Eating Habits

Monika Bischoff advises mindfulness to differentiate between the different types of hunger: “You should always be clear about what and how much you eat and at what times. You should also ask yourself whether you might just eat out of frustration and boredom.”

Fixed meal times, eating diaries, and getting on the scales in the morning can help you stay in control. “Especially those who sit a lot in their home office now shouldn’t do it in comfortable sweatpants, but in normal jeans. That way you notice additional weight faster.”

In addition, good weekly planning can help not eating uncontrolled unhealthy food, but a lot of fresh vegetables. The expert advises intermittent fasting and more exercise to achieve a better feeling of satiety.

Which food is right for me?

Klotter’s tip for mindful eating is: keep a diary. About what is digestible and what is good for you – during the meal and especially afterward. “What has a lasting positive effect? ​​And which foods, although eaten with a large appetite, maybe not be really good in the end?”

With this method, you not only learn something about your favorite food but also about yourself. The answers can be a guide for the future when asked: Which food is right for me?

celebrating food
© F1online / Westend61_PeterScholl

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