Where Is Food On The Mental Health Pyramid?

African American woman with fresh tomatoesWhen we think about our mental health, we rarely think about food. We might consider that our emotional state affects our food choices. For example, when I am sad, all I want is a red velvet cupcake… buttery, cheesecake frosting, moist center and…okay okay okay, I digress. When I have a great accomplishment, I want ice-cream or a beverage of the adult variety shared amongst friends. When I am missing family, all I want is a pot of collard greens and a side of sweet and buttery cornbread.

Rarely do I think about this the other way around, that food affects my feelings. Well, that is misleading. It’s a bit more complex than that.

When we think about food, we think of it as something to either a) satisfy our hunger or b) make our taste buds jump. Rarely do we take food for what it is designed to be, to nourish and replenish our bodies of what it needs to survive and, hopefully, thrive. I know we tend to feel emotions in our stomachs and in our hearts but any psychologist will tell you that it is all about the brain.

Our brains process pain, joy, and fear. It goes something like this…
Step 1. Have an experience.
Step 2. Brain processes that experience.
Step 3. We respond to that experience based on our brain’s interpretation.

​Whether it is a break-up, a horrible day at work, an exciting journey, or a new opportunity, our brains are making sense of it all.

One challenge we often face is that we don’t…