There is something that is well known and that hardly anyone discusses anymore: our mental health – which includes emotional, psychological and social well-being – affects the way we think, feel, relate, decide and act in life. What’s more: the intimate connection of the mind and food, experts say, is two-way, since enjoying a healthy and appetizing meal has a positive impact on our psycho-emotional well-being, and conversely, the discomfort derived from conflicts or imbalances of our inner world, it can lead us to have negative eating behaviors.
The pandemic is leaving its mark on our psyche, experts warn with increasing insistence. “What we eat and how we eat it is a basic factor for improving our mental health and psychological well-being, aspects that should be given importance after a year and several very difficult months,” says Dr. López Ibor, from the European group ORPEA specialized in mental health.
“Good nutritional status is closely related to good mental health, and gastronomy is a key point in the experience of patients,” says Paula Martínez, director of this psychiatric center. “In this clinic, the majority of patients with pathologies of depression, anxiety, and personality disorders are treated. The moments of satisfaction and joy that a good meal can generate, undoubtedly help them in the evolution they take in their group therapies with their doctors ”.
“Gastronomy is a complement and a reinforcement for an improvement”, remarks Martínez, who also highlights that “it is proven that quality products, an exquisite presentation and excellent preparation, generate a well-being and a feeling for the clinic’s patients. of normality more assimilable to their usual life, which is very important with regard to their experience and emotions ”.
Chef Diego Guerrero, for his part, is convinced based on his own experience: “It has been shown that there is a relationship between food and mental health, between gastronomy and psychological well-being. People’s emotional states have a direct impact on their health ”.
For the chef, “cooking consists of feelings, it appeals to emotions. When you cook for someone it is to generate feelings and, generally, they are of happiness. We know that a healthy diet helps to rest better, not to put stress on the liver and other organs. In the end, everything is closely related. The way we eat directly affects our mood and, consequently, our health. From the point of view of restoration and gastronomy, it is not the same to cook in a home, a clinic or a restaurant, but there must always be some general characteristics, such as affection, perseverance, love, dedication and passion. for the product ”.
What the chef says is in perfect harmony with what the Centta Institute points out: “The relationship between our food and our well-being is a two-way street, since both facets of our lives exert a reciprocal influence. For example, our deep psychological problems and relational difficulties can manifest themselves in the form of eating disorders ”.
According to the psychologist Robin Rica, this type of disorder represents “a serious mental health pathology that manifests itself essentially through symptoms and obsessions related to food and body image.”
These eating disorders include anorexia nervosa (maintaining an abnormally low body weight); bulimia (excessive food intake in a very short time); and others more complex, such as vomiting syndrome (cyclical episodes of severe vomiting); and muscle dysmorphia (obsessive fixation on a physical trait that is perceived as defective).
“Eating disorders are linked to difficulties in emotional regulation and enormous suffering, so observing possible changes in mood or in social relationships can also give us clues that something may not be going well,” says Rica.
For this specialist, other risk factors for an eating disorder are: low self-esteem, obsessive perfectionism, insecurity, low tolerance for frustration, family overprotection, having an extremely thin beauty model, obsession with sports , the history of obesity, as well as the previous overweight and having suffered ridicule about it (especially in men).
“Adolescence itself is considered a risk factor for an eating disorder”, according to Rica, who explains that there are groups with a higher risk of suffering from these disorders due to their activity, “such as people who practice sports or aesthetic activities or who must fit into weight categories (boxing, martial arts) ”.