Duke Center for Eating Disorders helps patients understand the relationship between food and emotion and gives them tools to overcome emotional eating.
Food has long been known to have sedative and mood-enhancing properties. We are drowsy after eating a turkey dinner, energized after consuming a candy bar, and peaceful after some milk and cookies.
While associating certain foods with certain feelings has long been thought to reflect our own learning history (we associate cookies with happiness because our mom gave us cookies when we were sad), researchers are increasingly learning that there may also be a biological basis for why mom gave us cookies in the first place.
Certain foods may, in fact, have similar effects on certain neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that influence complex states such as emotions) as do certain foodstuffs. Thus, turning to food for comfort may be less about poor willpower and more about learning that pairing certain foods with certain mood states truly makes us feel better -- in the moment.
However, such precise learning comes at a cost. Not only will cookies not solve the problem that made us turn to cookies in the first place, but also the use of food to soothe our mood may result in detriments to health in the form of unhealthy weight gain.
The goal of the food and mood program is to understand an individual’s unique relationship with food.
We will take a microscopic view of your eating patterns and your particular food choices as a function of your emotional and physical state at that moment and the events going on around you.
Via mobile technologies such as your cell phone, you will complete measurements throughout the day so we can form some ideas about how you are using food to cope at any given moment. Such assessments may include biological measures such as measuring your blood sugars or collecting saliva samples to measure levels of stress hormones.
Once we have this detailed information, our therapists, physicians, and nutritionists meet together to formulate your treatment (with your input) and will present you with Phase 1 of your treatment plan, a combination of psychological, behavioral, and nutrition tools that take into account your unique physiology and learning history with food.
To schedule an appointment at the Duke Center for Eating Disorders or to get a referral, call 919-668-0398 locally or 888-ASK-DUKE (888-275-3853) toll-free.
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