I was speaking with a colleague and the conversation turned to clients where eating and diet is discussed. This posed the exploration of nutrition and eating in relation to mental health... not eating disorders, but how diet and eating habits can be influential on emotional well being.
My immediate thinking when you said about eating and emotional health covered a couple of threads:
First, I am quite convinced at any person overweight (whatever that might mean) is showing a bodily response to past difficulty and trauma. ‘Authorities’ that promote healthy eating and dietary changes miss the point of underlying emotional stresses. I would also say this mostly apply to smoking and drinking.
Actually they all have in common a need to take in nourishment. Our first nourishment being breast/bottle fed represents our first body satisfaction and body contact.
I think of eating, therapeutically, as a desire for satisfaction, a satisfaction bodily held and experienced from nourishment.
Adult nourishment is more than feeding, yet food offers a ready obvious and indeed an applicable source of nourishment - but is not always the applicable nourishment needed.
A book I am reading is 'Gestalt Therapy in Clinical Practice: From Psychopathology to the Aesthetics of Contact' (Gestalt Therapy Book Series) . Istituto di Gestalt HCC Italy. Kindle Edition.
"Food conveys primary communication and represents a «bridge with life» (Parsi and Toro, 2006, p. 33). A positive relationship with food teaches children the act of receiving, exploring and desiring. There is, therefore, a close bond between food and intimacy, «between the smell of food and the fragrance of not being alone. For all of us, eating does not just mean feeding, but coming into contact» (Parsi and Toro, 2006, p. 35). A hug at a time of need (hunger) helps the child perceive the boundary of its own body and feel the warmth of nearness, which makes it feel safe and protected. Through eating, the experience of pleasure and displeasure is organized, and the basis is laid for internal confidence (Jeammet, 2006). Today, the eating function has become problematic. Meals are often no longer an occasion for sharing, but a moment of solitary consumption, or an act overloaded with importance due to the anxiety with which it is experienced, especially in the parent-child relationship. Thus the eating function becomes a privileged arena for conflicts to crystallize, and the child’s physiological resistance, which is necessary for it to begin controlling the world and learn how to oppose invasion, becomes exasperated or paralyzed."
(Kindle Locations 12614-12623)
Simplistically the conversations in therapy around diet and nutrition can be translated into a desire for nourishment, which means a desire to overcome the felt hunger. So the therapeutic direction is the exploration of the hunger - hungry for what unmet relational needs.