Food for the soul

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

Celebrating food: Preparing meals together and trying them out brings variety to everyday life

© F1online / Westend61_PeterScholl

Cinemas and theaters are closed. The favorite bar only offers drinks to take away. And sociable rounds with the circle of friends have to be canceled at the moment. It is all the more important to turn to the things that are currently possible and good for us - the little joys of everyday life that otherwise often get lost in the hustle and bustle. For example: cooking and enjoying. Some remember recipes that they always wanted to try, but for which there was never time. Others recreate old family recipes or a friend's favorite recipe. Cooking shows on television and on social media provide input and bring variety.

Enjoy relaxed

Food keeps body and soul together, they say - an important effect, especially in difficult times. If the food originally served purely for survival, in the course of time it became more and more cultural and emotional.

Joint meals convey solidarity, regional and national dishes convey 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 chance to break out of previous routines. Above all, from the habit of only eating on the side in a hurry to somehow get full," says Christoph Klotter, Professor of Health and Nutritional Psychology at the University of Fulda. "When we slow down, we can rediscover food as a very exciting field."

Daily family reunion

So far, empirical data has shown the trend towards less and less self-cooking. You can now turn that around by taking more time to celebrate the food. His advice: "Prepare meals together: with your partner, with the children. And then eat in a quiet and pleasant atmosphere with a tablecloth and candles."

And: switch off disruptive factors! The cell phone should not be on the table when eating and the television should not be on at the same time. It's about indulging in the taste of things on the plate without distraction.

Historically, meals have always been a fixed gathering place for families, an act of coming together and togetherness. Finding a little way back there is definitely a chance, believes the nutrition psychologist. Also to notice again that it is important to be psychologically full while eating, by exchanging ideas with the next person or by calming down. Klotter hopes: "We can regain good food."

The eyes, heart and nose can also go hungry

Eating and drinking influence the emotional state. We don't just eat out of hunger, but also to celebrate, to reward, to comfort or to relax. Monika Bischoff explains that the concept of the "seven types of hunger" helps to clarify the functions of eating.

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 odor-oriented "nose hunger", there are also forms that are more of a psychological nature.

This is the case with "heart hunger", for example, when one is lonely, bored or scared. Everyone knows the effect that pasta makes you happy and chocolate helps against frustration and stress. Certain ingredients have an effect on the brain. Studies show that our mood is influenced by the gut: 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 longer any alternative to the mood-enhancing functions of eating. When everything revolves around the next meal and food becomes the only compensation for negative feelings. "Food is the emotion manager par excellence," says Klotter.

Eating disorders - when your thoughts are only about food

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

Eating disorders are very diverse: eating addiction, binge eating, vomiting (bulimia) or anorexia (anorexia). The compulsion to eat as healthily as possible (orthorexia) can also become a problem. What they have in common is that those affected often cannot find their way back to normal eating behavior on their own and need therapeutic support.

Whenever she feels stressed, sad or scared, many resort to fatty and sugary food, which first of all gives comfort and soothes. Hiding on the sofa every now and then with a bag of chips or a box of chocolates is perfectly fine, says Klotter. Just by no means should it become a permanent state.

Observe eating habits

Monika Bischoff advises being mindful in order to differentiate between the different types of hunger: "You should always be clear about what and how much you are eating at what time, and ask yourself whether you are eating out of frustration and boredom."

Fixed meal times, eating diaries, and walking on the scales in the morning can help you stay in control. "Anyone who now sits a lot in the home office should not do so in comfortable sweatpants, but in normal jeans. You will notice additional weight more quickly."

In addition, good weekly planning can help not to eat unhealthy food in an uncontrolled manner, but rather a lot of fresh vegetables. The expert advises intermittent fasting and too much exercise in order 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 afterwards. "How do I get ingredients and dishes? What has a lasting positive effect? ​​And which foods, although eaten with great appetite, are perhaps not really good in the end?"

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

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