Food anxiety: this gray area that concerns so many women

It’s like a whisper, a very soft background noise that interferes with our lives and imposes on us a code of good nutritional conduct. A paris-brest or a kebab and fries in our field of vision and now flash warnings of guilt: am I cracking up or not? And if I crack, how many cardio sessions or plates of green beans will I impose on myself to atone for my prank? According to an Ipsos study for Qare, a medical appointment application, 44% of French women would be subject to food anxiety during their lifetime, this gray area where eating becomes a source of excessive concern. An area of ​​turbulence that would have long-term negative impacts on our physical health as well as on our mental well-being. “I call it nutritional tyranny, explains Sophie Deram, nutritionist, neuroscience researcher, author of “Forget about diets, they make you fat” and “I can’t lose weight. The 7 pillars to reprogram your brain” (both at Marabout). An excess of rules that generates a lot of anxiety. We try to eat everything perfect, and when we swerve, we enter into a pattern of guilt and, often, a feeling of “screwed for screwed up”. I see this kind of behavior every day in my practice. But the important thing is to understand that it is not the food itself that makes you fat. It is our relationship to food. For the nutritionist and blogger, based in Brazil, a simplification of nutrition concepts would have led us to believe that it is above all calories that make you gain weight. “But it’s much more complex than that,” she continues. The body grows when it receives too much energy. But if you are well connected with yourself, the day you eat fries, you will be less hungry the next meal. This is what happened in the past: people ate a lot and fat for the holidays, but gained less weight than today because afterwards, they took a nap and waited to regain their appetite. »

“The yo-yo effect is much worse for your health than being slightly overweight”

But how to find this kind of natural food intelligence specific to our ancestors, when everything – society, magazines, social networks – makes us stress about our weight? “I don’t know if this anxiety says an obsession with food or a chronic dissatisfaction with our appearance, underlines Catherine Serfaty-Lacrosnière, nutritionist, co-author with Ruben Sarfati of “La Cuisine antiinflammatory gourmande” (ed. Hugo New Life) . We have a problem with body image and this desire to always lose weight to meet societal criteria. You have to be thin, fat would not be good for aesthetics or health, especially when it is abdominal. And we also have a concern with body changes and aging. Despite the body positive movement, there is still a diktat of appearance which represents, for many women and men, perhaps not suffering, but a difficulty in living. » According to Alexandra Dalu, nutritionist, author of the book « The 100 misconceptions that prevent you from feeling well » (LeducS Éditions), food anxiety would even begin very early. “We see children, from the age of 10, who, with social networks, will want to look like an athlete or a model, while their profession corresponds to a way of life that is very far from theirs. A syndrome that can come from outside as well as from the family: I sometimes receive parents who have removed meat and fish from their meals and only feed their children vegetables and seeds. »

Another injunction, which we find this time in the medical world: the weight would be a good indicator of health. And an overweight person should imperatively lose weight or risk triggering various diseases. “However, we know today that this injunction to diet and the yo-yo effect are much worse for health than a slight overweight or even a stable overweight, says Sophie Deram. Global data is clear on this: 95% of people will regain their weight or more after a restrictive diet. The human body is programmed to recover weight as quickly as possible. And the 5% of success concerns people with eating disorders. It is estimated that anorexia or bulimia start with diets. Public health now tries to get people to maintain their weight by improving the quality of their diet or changing their behavior, rather than making them lose pounds. Another major drawback of this food anxiety that keeps us in an infantile attitude, between guilt (“I’m a glutton, I just swallowed a packet of Granola”) and misplaced pride (“I’m strong, I don’t have not ordered gourmet coffee”)? The risk of developing what Sophie Deram calls “emotional eating”. In other words, by imposing rules on yourself and following menus without listening to your needs, you will see your appetite increase, a certain obsession with eating “forbidden” foods grow and you will tend to solve your problems with feed. “You lose what’s called interoception,” she explains. It is the ability of the person to feel his body, hot, cold, thirst, hunger, and that we all have at birth. »

The solutions to get out of this food anxiety that nibbles our brains and our lives? “First, allow yourself to eat, giving priority to quality and pleasure, tasting the chocolate cake that you will have picked up in the best pastry shop in town,” says Sophie Deram. Listen to your emotional part: am I eating because I’m hungry or because I’m sad? Stop waging war on food. And finally, try to forget all the nutritional information. Excess nutritional information is detrimental to the quality of eating behavior.” So let’s forget everything, close our eyes, take a bite and enjoy!

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