Can the Psychology of Eating Change Your Metabolism?

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We all know that good nutrition is one of the greatest keys to optimal health. What’s not so obvious is that often times, our relationship with food gets in the way of healthy eating. Far too many people face the challenges of overeating, binge eating, unhappy body image, excess weight, and more.

And a great number of people, despite eating the right diet, may be losing the benefits of their good nutritional habits by making some very common mistakes that a few key lessons in eating psychology can powerfully correct.

Have you noticed how so many of us know what to eat, know about good nutrition, and have a clear idea of what we should and shouldn’t eat – but we just don’t do it?

It’s crystal clear that understanding what to eat or how much to exercise doesn’t  guarantee that we’ll translate that knowledge into action especially when we look at weight loss.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce you to the work of nutritional psychologist Marc David and The Institute for the Psychology of Eating – www.psychologyofeating.com. Marc has been a close friend and colleague of mine for many years, and his books and trainings have been life changing for so many people.

His work provides the missing ingredient that many have been searching for – a profound and practical understanding of the mind of the eater. Marc’s two best-selling books – The Slow Down Diet and Nourishing Wisdom will teach you how thoughts, feelings, beliefs, stress relaxation, pleasure, and more – powerfully impact nutritional metabolism and weight.

Marc’s work is a great combination of science, psychology, heart, and soul. He has originated two new cutting edge fields – Dynamic Eating Psychology and Mind Body Nutrition – that will powerfully change the way you see your relationship with food and nutrition.

I highly encourage you to learn more about Marc David’s work — just go to www.psychologyofeating.com. There’s a free audio gift for you to download, and you can discover more about the unique professional trainings that the Institute for the Psychology of Eating offers.

A few more brief words: Marc’s Institute trains people to work with weight loss, body image, overeating, and a host of nutrition related health concerns like digestion, fatigue, mood, and immunity. His programs are for professionals, those looking for a new career, and anyone looking to use this great new approach for their own personal benefit.

It’s some very inspiring and cutting edge work that can take your interest in nutrition to a whole new level. I know that they have a new Distance Learning Program and some great early enrollment incentives if you contact them by March 1st.

Today I wanted to share an article Marc wrote that outlines a few of the “secrets” of eating psychology.

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below – but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

Secrets of Eating Psychology

By Marc David

Most of us have been taught to believe that good nutrition is simply a function of eating the right food and taking the right supplements. Of course, this is true, but there’s more to the equation. What we eat is only half the story of good nutrition.

The other half of the story is who we are as eaters. That is, what we think, feel, believe our levels of stress, relaxation, pleasure, awareness, and the inner stories that we live out all have a real, powerful, and scientific effect on nutritional metabolism.

Recent advances in the mind-body sciences have been proving what ancient wisdom traditions have been saying for eons – that the mind and body exist on an exquisite continuum, and profoundly impact one another.

So the good news is simply this: you can powerfully change your health and your nutritional status without changing anything you eat, but by changing you the eater.

In my 30 years as a nutritional psychologist, I’ve seen so many profound breakthroughs in clients and students around weight, overeating, and a long list of health conditions when they began to practice some of the simple principles of eating psychology. Consider some of these key “secrets” that I think everyone should know:

1.  Stress can put weight on – relaxation can take it off

It’s fascinating how stress, fear, anxiety, anger, judgment, and even negative self-talk can literally create a  physiologic stress response in the body. This means that we generate more cortisol and insulin, two hormones that have the unwanted effect of signaling the body to store weight, store fat, and stop building muscle. Strange as it may sound, we quite literally change our calorie burning capacity when we’re stressed. What’s more incredible though, is that as we learn to smile more, ease into life, and breathe more deeply, the body enters a physiologic relaxation response. In this state, we actually create our optimal day-in, day-out calorie-burning metabolism. So, you could be following the best weight loss diet in the world, but if you’re an anxious mess, the power of your mind is limiting the weight loss of your body. Far too many people adopt stressful weight loss strategies – impossible to follow diets, overly intense exercise programs, tasteless food, and extremely low calorie meal plans – all of which can create the kind of stress chemistry that ensures our weight will stay put. It’s time to relax into weight loss.

2.  Happiness is the best digestive aid

Can you recall what happens when you eat during anxiety or stress? Many people report such symptoms as heartburn, cramping, gas, and digestive upset. During stress, the body automatically shifts into the classic fight-or-flight response. This feature of the nervous system evolved over millions of years as a brilliant safety mechanism to support us during life-threatening events. In the moment the stress response is activated, something very interesting happens – the digestive system shuts down. It makes perfect sense that when you’re fending off an angry gorilla, you don’t need to waste energy digesting your breakfast. All the body’s metabolic energy is directed towards survival. So, you could be eating the healthiest food in the universe, but if you aren’t eating under the optimum state of digestion and assimilation – which happens to be relaxation – you literally and metabolically are not receiving the full nutritional value of your meal.

3.  Overeating – it’s simpler than you think

Most people think they overeat because they have a willpower problem. “If only I could control my appetite, then I would stop being such a willpower weakling and start losing weight.” Well, here’s the good news – you don’t have a willpower problem. The problem for a majority of overeaters is that they don’t actually “eat” when they eat. What I’m suggesting is that we aren’t always fully present to the meal, aware of its taste, eating it slowly, or simply feeling nourished by the food. When this happens, the brain, which requires taste and satisfaction, misses out on a key phase of the nutritional experience. The brain literally thinks it didn’t eat, or didn’t eat enough. And it simply screams back at us – “Hungry!” So, you can dramatically decrease your overeating by increasing your awareness and presence at every meal.

4.  Slower eating means faster metabolism

One of my favorite nutritional questions to ask a client or student is “Are you a fast eater, moderate eater, or slow eater?” If the answer is “fast”, then it’s time for an overhaul. That’s because the act of eating fast is considered a stressor by the body. Humans are simply not biologically wired for high speed eating. So when we do eat fast, the body once again enters the physiologic stress response, which results in decreased digestion, decreased nutrient assimilation, increased nutrient excretion, lowered calorie burning rate, and a bigger appetite. The bottom line is that you can literally empower your nutritional metabolism simply by slowing down. What’s fascinating is that for many fast eaters, slowing down is quite a challenge. But try this – don’t just eat slow – eat sensuously, feel nourished by your food, and take in all the sensations of your meal.

5.  Make sure you have enough Vitamin P – Pleasure!

Far too many people are taught to believe that pleasure is something frivolous. Well, it’s actually required by our biology. All organisms on planet earth, be they lion, lizard, amoeba, or human, are programmed at the most primitive level of the nervous system to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Well, if you’re eating and not paying attention, the brain will drive you to seek more pleasure via overeating. What’s worse, if you’re stressed while eating, the excess cortisol in your system actually de-sensitizes us to pleasure – so you’ll need to eat more food in order to get the pleasure we are seeking. The bottom line is this: If you want more pleasure from food, you don’t need to eat more of the ice cream. Simply breathe, relax, de-stress, enjoy, and pay attention and the body will naturally experience the pleasure it seeks. And the great news is, since pleasure catalyzes a relaxation response, it actually fuels digestion and assimilation

6.  Emotional eating – it’s not the enemy

At our core, we are emotional beings – rich, complex, juicy, unpredictable, feeling-filled creatures. We love, we celebrate, we laugh, cry, we break down, we rise up… So how could we NOT be emotional eaters? We love food. We love our favorite restaurant. We love how food makes us feel good. Some of us love cooking for others. Some of us are passionate about nutrition. It’s time to get over it – if you’re human, you will bring emotionality to the table. Once we embrace the reality that we’re genetically hard-wired for emotional expression we can relax a little more.  Underneath the quest to eradicate emotional eating from one’s life is often found a hidden desire to eliminate uncomfortable feelings. We strive for an impossible to attain goal that constantly leaves us frustrated and in failure. Yes, this thing called emotional eating can be very painful. But it’s not the actual problem – it’s a symptom that’s pointing to something deeper. It’s an alert mechanism from body wisdom that’s calling us to check in, and follow the flow of emotions within us to see where our soul is calling for more awareness and insight.

7.  Get rid of toxic nutritional beliefs

Finally, many of us have absorbed toxic nutritional beliefs that are as harmful and debilitating as any of the toxins in our food. Here’s what I mean: it’s surprisingly common for people to believe that “food is the enemy”, or “food makes me fat”, or “fat in food will become fat on my body” or “my appetite is the enemy” or “as soon as I have the perfect body, then I’ll finally be happy”. Such beliefs may seem harmless, yet they can create a relationship with food and self that’s filled with tremendous suffering and pain. Think about it – if “food is the enemy”, then we are constantly in a fight or flight stress response whenever we eat, or even think about food. Such a powerful stressor can cause all the problems of stress-induced digestive shutdown, decreased calorie burning capacity, and an inner life that’s seldom at peace. The question is: Is your relationship with food nourishing, or punishing?

Hopefully, you’ve noticed that there’s way more to good nutrition than simply the food itself. We bring all of ourselves to the table – our hopes, fears, thoughts, feelings, dramas, and dreams. And the more we include a well rounded nutritional profile – Vitamin R – relaxation, Vitamin P – pleasure, Vitamin S – slow, and Vitamin L – love – the more we can literally nourish ourselves on every level.

Marc David is the Founder & Director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom, The Slow Down Diet, and Mind Body Nutrition. The Institute for the Psychology of Eating is the world’s only teaching organization dedicated to a forward thinking, positive, holistic approach to nutritional psychology. IPE is revolutionary in its approach – teaching students and professionals how to effectively work with the most common eating challenges of our times. Learn more at psychologyofeating.com

14 Responses to Can the Psychology of Eating Change Your Metabolism?

  1. Kimby January 27, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    Mark, thank for hosting Marc! I especially liked his thought, “Don’t just eat slowly — eat sensuously.” There’s more to life — and eating — than “eat this, don’t eat that.” (And feeling guilty the whole time!)

    Thank you for continuing to put the message out there that food is GOOD — dare I even say sexy? Excellent advice, gentlemen!

  2. Debbie Pirrone January 28, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    I love this approach to weight loss. It is truly the missing component of any diet.

  3. Dorothy Keto January 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    Dr. Hyman, I want you to know how grateful I am for your e-mail newsletters. I find valuable information in each and every one. I enjoyed seeing you on Dr. Oz a few weeks back. Thanks for sharing your common sense approach to health and medicine.

  4. Marilyn Clevenger CNE, CNC, CCHT January 29, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    TO: Dr. Mark Hyman and Marc David: A HEART FELT and Most Sincere Thanks to Both of you for these wonderful and informative articles! They are powerful and meaningful contributions to the journey of awakening Nutrition Consciousness as access to the path of restoring health! As you and I know SO well, moving away from the Standard American Diet (the ‘S.A.D.’ Diet) is critical to creating new health consciousness, and the restoring of vital health. As a Hoilstic Certified Nutrition Educator and Consultant, as well as a Clinical Hypnotherapist I will be able to even more powerfully and effectively assist my clients to be more knowledgeable and inspired as they seek the path to wellness. The article by Nutrition Psycholgist Marc David provides the same information value as numerous hours of individual sessions focused on ‘Healthy Nutrition Therapy’. Your website Dr Hyman: http://www.drhyman.com as well as Marc David’s website: http://www.psychologyofeating.com will both be recommended and included as valuable resources for my clients in my Private Sessions, Workshops and Teleseminars, as well as on my Nutrition Education website http://www.SoulCuisineNutrition.com. The combination of the Nutrition knowledge and the understanding of the Psychology of Eating represents for many people the missing link to their desire and efforts to restore and maintain vital health. I can begin to imagine what can be accomplished towards transforming the overall physical, spiritual and financial health in the United States, and in the world when people have the tools and information neceessary to support them to transform personal health! Again, my heartfelt thanks for sharing your wisdom and for your inspired leadership in this important field!

  5. Marilyn Clevenger CNE, CNC, CCHT January 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    A HEART FELT Thanks for these informative articles! They are powerful and meaningful contributions to the journey of awakening Nutrition Consciousness as access to the path of restoring health! As you and I know SO well, moving away from the Standard American Diet (the ‘S.A.D.’ Diet) is critical to restoring of vital health. As a Hoilstic Certified Nutrition Educator and Consultant, and a Clinical Hypnotherapist I will be able to more effectively assist my clients as they seek the path to wellness. The article by Nutrition Psycholgist Marc David provides great value . Your website Dr Hyman: http://www.drhyman.com and Marc David’s website: http://www.psychologyofeating.com will both be valuable resources for my clients in my Private Sessions, Workshops and Teleseminars, and on my Nutrition Education website http://www.SoulCuisineNutrition.com. The Nutrition knowledge and the understanding of the Psychology of Eating will for many people will be the missing link to their efforts to restore vital health. I can imagine what can be accomplished towards transforming physical, and spiritual health when people have the tools and information to support them to transform personal health! My heartfelt thanks for sharing your wisdom and for your inspired leadership in this important field!

  6. Marilyn Clevenger CNE, CNC, CCHT January 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    A HEART FELT Thanks for these informative articles! They are powerful and meaningful contributions to the journey of awakening Nutrition Consciousness as access to the path of restoring health! As you and I know SO well, moving away from the Standard American Diet (the ‘S.A.D.’ Diet) is critical to restoring of vital health. As a Hoilstic Certified Nutrition Educator and Consultant, and a Clinical Hypnotherapist I will be able to more effectively assist my clients as they seek the path to wellness. The article by Nutrition Psycholgist Marc David provides great value . Your website Dr Hyman and Marc David’s website be valuable resources for my clients in my Private Sessions, Workshops and Teleseminars, and on my Nutrition Education website. The Nutrition knowledge and the understanding of the Psychology of Eating will for many people will be the missing link to their efforts to restore vital health. I can imagine what can be accomplished towards transforming physical, and spiritual health when people have the tools and information to support them to transform personal health! My heartfelt thanks for sharing your wisdom and for your inspired leadership in this important field!

  7. Wanda Bedinghaus, MD January 30, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Thanks for the article. I just ate my lunch, standing up in the kitchen…why? Because my little puppy was jumping up for her share. I realize how many times I eat “mindlessly”…while driving in my car. These are my worse meals usually, but the problem is I am not thinking about the food. I greatly appreciate all the wonderful work you do, Dr. Mark Hyman. I tell all my patients about your books, blogs and anything you produce.

    I have just started studying from the Institute of Function Medicine so we can add a more comprehensive approach to our healing work at Healing Unleashed. I am a homeopathic physician, and I realize there are so many obstacles to cure. I am loving learning more about this most amazing human body that has the innate capacity to heal itself…if and as we support it.
    Wanda Bedinghaus, MD

  8. Michelle Sartor January 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    I’m a huge fan of both Mark & Marc and excited to learn of your mutual respect. Both of you do such fantastic, healling work. It’s great to see a symbiotic relationship amongst gurus.

    I often use tips I’ve learned from functional medicine and psychology of eating when working with clients. I’m looking forward to future musings and guidance.

    Be Well,
    Michelle

  9. Angela Minelli January 31, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    I’m a huge fan of both Marc David and Dr. Hyman so this is the perfect guest blog post in my opinion. Marc’s insight around nutrition is incomparable and pure genius. I can never get enough :)

  10. Shaun Kelly February 6, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    What a wonderful article. I love the nutritional profile concept of Vitamin “R” “P” “S” “L”. Such a great way to convey the importance of the “eater”. Will be most definitely sharing this. http://energylife.ca

    In Possibility,

    Shaun

  11. David Benjamin June 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    Great article! this advice is priceless and very insightful… I loved that this type of content isn’t really covered by other sites online.

    Thanks so much for this!

    David

  12. Geoff King April 20, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    Firstly I would like to thank you for your contribution to society. Your Ultrametabolism book is probably the best book I have ever read.

    I am pleased that you are also promoting the psychology of food, I have an eating disorder which I am currently treating and realise that healthy eating often involves much more than proper nutirition.

    Best wishes,

    Geoff King

  13. Cathy Whelehan March 18, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    Thank you for all of your work, books, blogs etc. I am interested in how this all relates to eating disorders and specifically anorexia nervosa. I love how Marc David talks about Vitamin P, S and L! I am going to share this with my 13 year old daughter who is still recovering from AN and we have a very healthy whole foods diet yet it is very difficult for her to gain weight still and she suffers from Chronic constipation. She has seen some of the best pediatric gastroenterologists in the country and still needs suppositories to go to the bathroom. Dr. Hyman most of your books and work seem to focus on helping people lose weight and feel better through diet, but I wonder if you can speak more to those with problems gaining weight because if seems it is actually all part of the same system. Thank you.

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