Food insecurity can have lasting psychological and physiological effects. Food insecurity has typically been thought of as only affecting individuals with limited economic resources. Research, however, has shown that individuals who have had restricted food intake (from dieting, lack of availability of food, or being prohibited from having certain foods), especially at young ages, has a higher risk of developing disordered eating thoughts and behaviors. Restriction of food choices, as well as overall nutrient intake, can affect how our brain responds to hunger. When we are hungry, our brain becomes preoccupied with thoughts of food, and cravings intensify, especially for foods that will provide quick energy. Intentional food restriction, through dieting and/or restricting certain foods, can increase our physiological desire for food.
Individuals of all economic backgrounds can experience food insecurity. Learning to respect our body’s hunger and fullness signals, and avoiding restriction of nutrients or food groups, allows our body and brain to develop a healthier relationship with food. Individuals who have dieted frequently may have symptoms similar to an individual with food insecurity. Working with a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Mental Health Therapist can help you understand and repair your relationship with food.