It’s 2019 and Americans are still confused about what to feed themselves. We argue about whether raising livestock or becoming vegan is going to regenerate and save the environment. We continue to jump from one fad diet to the next or we’re continually stuffing our faces with junk food. Indeed, there’s a lot of emotion that goes into what we eat. 

Human development psychologist, Gerd Gerzinger’s research states that people will develop flexible, adaptive behaviors as they interact with their environment. I, however, argue that what it should say is “can develop” — because, as observational evidence shows, people will not always adapt, and that lack of adaptive behavior is what keeps us emotionally confused to what we’re eating. 

I hypothesize that the combined work of triple-board certified doctor, Dr. Zach Bush and social scientist and National Geographic Fellow, Dan Buettner may actually help us out of this modern conundrum and prove that emotional eating is a good thing. We must look at our recent past and apply it to our present to gain a renewed perspective on emotional eating. 

Reframing: Good Food/Good Mood 

Instead of staying fixed on the idea that we eat to avoid directly dealing with our emotions, we should rather focus on the science that teaches us that emotions are derived from our food and where we derive of our ingredients, as well as the types of settings in which we choose to eat. In this sense, our environment feeds our emotions and suggests that we would allow ourselves to become more in-tune with our environments and the healthy foods they can confer to help us build a positive emotional outlook. 

It would be nearly impossible to take all the emotion out of eating. Let’s consider Dr. Bush’s multi-faceted research and work that connects farming, ecology, and gut health. His work exemplifies the inherent connection between humans and the environment and shows that when we regenerate our soil ecology we create a habitat for the diverse microbiota our immunity and emotions are derived from.

However, if you’re consuming glyphosate-laden foods that were grown in decimated, nutrient-void soil, your gut will likely still suffer from some degree of permeability. This means it has fallen prey to inflammation and gut junctions that should otherwise be tightly sealed are open. 

When these gut junctions are open, they’re vulnerable to the entrance of intruders from the bloodstream that alarm the immune system. It’s most often assumed that if chronic permeability exists, the gut microbiota has been compromised. Instead of favorable communication between microbes and neuro-regulators that influence emotions, an immunological cascade of inflammatory cellular activity flows, signaling stress catecholamines like norepinephrine and epinephrine (aka: your fight-or-flight biochemicals). This stressful emotional state will be perpetuated until permeability is healed. 

Conversely, if one embraces a healthy, organic diet that was grown in regenerative soil and is rich in diverse soil microbes the Good Food/Good Mood motto rings true. 

Dr. Bush says we’re hanging from the precipice — we can choose collapse or reverently bow down to what our soil deeply needs to regenerate and confer nourishment. By regenerating our soil we regenerate and heal our emotional viability. 

How are Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones Related to Emotional Eating? 

If you’re new to the Blue Zones, Buettner describes them as the nine places around the globe with the longest living people. Each of the nine places have thrived on traditional diets and lifestyles that they still practice in our modern world today. 

A closer look shows us that they share two significant factors surrounding emotional eating: 1) they practice regenerative farming and growing, and 2) they come together to eat. 

Instead of hyperfocusing on dieting or the negative aspects of eating, those inhabiting Blue Zones believe food feeds the soul and, therefore, the emotions. Food is nutrient dense and social eating is emphasized — two highly important emotionally nourishing epigenetic variables. 

How will you change your outlook on food to incorporate Dr. Bush and Buettner’s theories?

Christine Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID is an integrative, epigenetic health and food therapy specialist, as well as a wellness, lifestyle, and food writer. She has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. Christine lives, works, and plays in Southern California with her daughter and husband. Stay tuned for Well Examined, her upcoming podcast with the fullest. 

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