Food is, by nature, a key aspect of survival, one of the aspects of life that we take the least time to come to terms with as something natural, part of everyday life. From a very young age, we used to do a series of routines related to the act of eating, the actions that are part of the schedule and our relationships with others.
However, as is often the case with things we take for granted, behind this idea of ”natural” and “normal” often lurks many unfounded assumptions which, in some cases, lead to misinterpretations of our actions and those of others. .
Eating behavior is a more complex phenomenon than most people realize, and it plays an important role in psychosocial processes of all kinds: emotions, expectations of beauty, ability (or not) to identify sensations, etc. Therefore, in this article we will consider many of the most common myths about eating behavior.
Very Common Myths About Eating Behavior
These are some of the most common misconceptions about eating behavior.
1. We eat due to an organic imbalance in our body
In many cases, the act of eating is not motivated by real hunger, even in people who have not been diagnosed with an eating disorder (ADD). Emotional hunger, which is a phenomenon in which the person confuses hunger with a type of discomfort that really has to do with emotions, is quite common, and leads to many problems of overweight and malnutrition because it promotes the consumption of food very rich in calories, capable of “distracting” the mind for a few minutes thanks to its taste.
2. Genes only influence nutrition, not food
Many people believe that beyond genetic factors related to how our body assimilates nutrients and vitamins from what we eat, everyone is free to adapt their behavior when eating, to avoid having a distant image of the canons of beauty and suffer from health problems. .
But the truth is that the influence of genetic inheritance is also present, albeit in part, in our predisposition to relate in some way to food.
This does not mean that our genome has total control over our actions, of course, but we cannot say that it has no influence. This distinction between the organic and the psychological is, in the end, a fiction: the mind and the body are not two distinct realities, and therefore practically every pattern of behavior is linked to more or less important genetic predispositions.
So, for example, some people are more likely to feel full before eating, while others experience this feeling later, having eaten more than their body actually needs.
3. If we eat too much it’s because we no longer care about our image and our health
This is another of the most common myths about eating behavior, and also one of the most stigmatizing towards those who suffer from overweight health issues. It has a lot to do with the idea that those who have accumulated more fat have succumbed to the sin of gluttony and/or lack the ability to control their urges usually showing it as a product of vice or irresponsibility.
But in reality, although it may seem contradictory, many people eat a lot precisely because they are obsessed with their health and their weight, and this discomfort causes their minds to focus a lot on food. This type of stress can cause them to either be more prone to binge eating to cope with the stress caused by self-esteem issues, or experience the “rebound effect” of following a very restrictive diet. for several days or weeks (it is ineffective).
Moreover, as we have seen so far, it is extremely simplistic to assume that the way we eat depends only on something we can call “willpower” or “discipline”: many variables are at play and some of them even complicate the task. to detect our harmful behavioral dynamics. It is wrong that because we are, it is good for us to recognize and identify the actions we perform that cause us problems; Sometimes just the opposite happens, which is why people with ADD need mental health professionals to break out of this loop of distorted perceptions of what is happening to them.
4. Eating disorders are about wanting to lose weight at all costs
This is one of the most widespread misunderstandings about ADD, linked among other things to the importance given for several decades to two specific pathologies: anorexia and bulimia.
But the truth is The concept of eating disorder is much broader than that and encompasses other types of problematic behavioral dynamics.. For example, in binge eating disorder, the person takes no extreme measures to try not to eat or to prevent what they have eaten from being absorbed into their body, and those who suffer from it tend to being overweight because they often eat unhungry, only stopping when they feel physically ill.
Beyond body and food
To learn more about the nature of eating behavior and ADD, we invite you to read the book “Feeding behavior. Beyond body and food”. Written by psychologist Marc Ruiz de Minteguía, member of the Center for Psychology and Psychotherapy Miguel Ángel, this work shows that behind our relationship to food there is much more than physiological processes and functional organs, but we also find a dynamic emotions, strategies for dealing with discomfort, expectations of social desirability and many other relevant psychological elements.
It is also issue number 28 of the “Library of Psychology” collection, composed of 60 books of rigorous scientific dissemination and whose editorial directors are Pablo Fernández-Berrocal, professor of psychology at the University of Malaga, and José Ramón Alonso, professor of cell biology at the Institute of Neurosciences of Castilla y León. It is on sale at print media outlets in Spain and can also be ordered online through the El País website.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Mason, Barcelona.
- Belloch, A.; Sandin, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Handbook of psychopathology. Volume I and II. Madrid: McGraw Hill.