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Emotionally: emotions are felt

Emotionally: emotions are felt
April 06, 2022
Dott.ssa Alessandra Politi
Emotionally: emotions are felt

Food is not only nourishment and, since we like to play with words, sometimes with their etymology, we could say that it is also "NourishMind", not only nourishment!

Yes, you read that right!

If we read the word "nutrition" carefully, we realise that it is made up of three concepts, essential pillars for our bodies and an inseparable psychosomatic unit:

Food (Ali- ment-o)

"Mind" (we could define it as that which allows us to have a subjective consciousness: as such, it does not occupy a physical place, so it is an abstract concept although it is generally associated with the brain, which is the organ in which mental processes take place but differs from this in that, while the mind is studied by disciplines such as psychology and psychiatry, the brain is approached by biology as a function of the physical and chemical processes that take place in it) and "Action", the result of the correct introjection of energy in which the "mind" finds expression by activating itself through the physical body.

Food is connected with the emotional life and takes on a meaning that goes beyond the merely physiological aspect: food is "seasoned" by various psychological aspects: values, ideologies, religious and cultural beliefs.

The relationship between food and emotional life is a powerful one, and each of us has experienced at least once in his or her life how food can be used to manage emotions.

But if these mechanisms become recurrent and automatic we slip into eating pathology. Through the relationship with food, the need for love is expressed: food becomes an anaesthetic with which we try to eliminate the suffering or dissatisfaction of the affective and emotional sphere.

For example, there is a strong connection between food and sex as they are linked to the aspect of desire and pleasure.

Indeed, the pleasure associated with food has been found to be an important moderator of the relationship between well-being and food (Appleton, McGowan, 2006; Remick, et al., 2009).

But when after dinner you constantly open the fridge in search of "something", or on the contrary when your stomach closes, perhaps after an argument with your partner or a colleague, you are experiencing the close link between food and emotions, between hunger and the psyche.

If there is, what is the difference between NERVE or EMOTIONAL HUNGER and PHYSIOLOGICAL HUNGER?

The former is sudden and urgent, insistent, very specific (craving for pizza, ice-cream, snacks...), it does not stop even if the body is full, it is automatic, as if one were hypnotised and then induces a sense of guilt for having eaten in such a way and to such an extent.

When, on the other hand, it is the body that demands nourishment, hunger is based on 'eating as a necessity', arrives gradually, can be postponed and, if we ask ourselves where we might place it, we would all point to the stomach (little hint: It is satisfied through different types of food (e.g. a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts), so it is not specific but characterised by voluntary, conscious choices, and once hunger has been satisfied it stops, not triggering feelings of guilt.


But how do we deal with the problematic aspects of emotional hunger on a day-to-day basis, and how do we find the right balance in our relationship with food?

Food, like all human activities, is accompanied by emotional experiences.

The emotional world is very complex and it is often not easy to give a name to the feelings we have and it can also lead to food being used improperly and therefore, for example, abused, almost as if it were a container, a means of calming anxiety and anguish, a situation that can trigger a vicious circle characterised by strong feelings of guilt about an attitude towards food that is seen as transgressive.

For example, for someone, the irrepressible desire for a food (craving) could be a sign that something inside us is not in balance and that we must stop and observe our lives, irrepressibility for many associated and localised to the unpleasant "empty feeling in the stomach", for others, the same feeling becomes in a distorted way a source of control over their lives: thanks to it, to its reassuring presence, the deliberate choice not to eat, a form of power and self-esteem, is established in a devious dialogue.


At a symbolic level we can understand a lot about ourselves from the type of food we are looking for, here are some associated with emotions:

  • Sweet food is probably the most common and widespread form of emotional hunger.
    One can feel lonely and unloved and what is missing is the joy and sweetness in life that is sought in food.
    Excess sugar in turn creates an imbalance in the levels of glucose and insulin in the blood, which makes it even more difficult to break out of the vicious circle, as well as altering the intestinal bacterial flora creating a state of dysbiosis, altering the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter of serenity, perhaps not everyone knows that 90% occurs in the intestine, responsible for altering the mood (is not the intestine defined as our 'second brain' or emotional brain?).

  • Salty foods (snacks, crisps, pizza, sausages, cheese)
    Salt in our bodies draws water. When we eat salty foods we introduce more water and this promotes movement and flow in our body. The desire for salty foods can therefore symbolise that we need to relax and go with the flow of life. But overdoing it with salt leads to elevated blood pressure, feelings of oppression and stress, the opposite of feeling relaxed and calm and relaxed...altering the intestinal flora.

  • Caffeine (coffee, tea, cola drinks)
    People who resort to these drinks may feel tired, unfocused, in need of socialising.
    People often drink coffee to break the rhythm of work or study and take a break or to have a chat with a friend. Too much caffeine, however, can lead to side effects such as feeling anxious, nervous and reducing our natural ability to handle stress...as well as altering the intestinal flora.

  • Crunchy foods
    You may feel angry, overwhelmed by a situation or frustrated.
    In fact, chewing crunchy foods can lead to a momentary feeling of relaxation because it apparently creates an outlet for the perceived tension.


Emotions, 'e-motion energy in motion', have an effect on our thoughts, behaviour and actions, but also on our bodies: as neuroscience describes, our psychology becomes our biology, and vice versa.

There are no good or bad, right or wrong emotions, because each emotion is a unique message for us, helping us to better understand who we are, what we are experiencing and what, if anything, needs to be changed in our lives.

However, we can distinguish them into two main emotions from which all the others derive:

Love (joy, happiness, trust, compassion, contentment, loving-kindness...) and Fear (anxiety, anger, sadness, loneliness, guilt, shame...).

"Re-acquainting ourselves with emotions presupposes that we are already capable of knowing them, giving them a face and a name, as they are in our daily lives, allows us to develop behavioural alternatives to the 'insatiable hunger to live'.


The aim is clear: to recognise, accept and 'feel' these emotions without resorting to food as a filler for what is missing.

The tools, both for those who can't keep hunger at bay and for those who can't swallow anything, are many and tailor-made, starting from the food we eat, as we have seen (let's not forget that we are what we eat), which must be chosen and supplemented with vitamins and nutrients that regulate good moods, passing through the help that comes from plants and nutraceuticals, as well as acquiring awareness with which to approach food by decoding our emotions.

It is necessary to learn to recognise one's inner states, to listen to and get to know one's body, to get in touch with one's deepest emotions and needs.

Unfortunately, unexpressed emotions do not disappear, but accumulate in the body, creating inflammatory states which in the long term can lead to more or less serious symptoms.

In fact, the body's wisdom will somehow lead it to find an outlet for them, which, if not outside, will be within us.

To put it in a nutshell, sooner or later we must 'feel'!

Emotionally: emotions are felt

Dott.ssa Alessandra Politi

Psychology and Autogenic Training

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