‘Mindful eating’: new business to tackle emotional hunger

Doughnut, Photo by Emma K.

As another long and stressful day in the office ends, Roberta goes home, where she lives by herself. After dinner, as the curfew kicks in, the 54 year old Italian employee switches on the television and opens a bag of chips. And then another one. As eating has become a response to deeper social and personal needs, an online Turkish business is now opening the way for a more holistic treatment of emotional eating.

Beden Zihin Besin (Body Mind Food) was launched at the beginning of 2021 by the dance and movement psychotherapist Ezgi Aydoğan, who long researched eating disorders. In order to work on the long-term attitude of patients, she decided to combine the skills of her mother, Zümrüt Aydoğan, who has years of expereince as a nutritionist, and her sister Beste Aydoğan, master’s student of Clinical Psychology, into the business.

“Food is my moment of gratification,” Roberta says. She prefers not sharing her surname and says that the lockdown has worsened her eating habits, as her feelings of fear and loneliness have increased. Being confined to their homes over these months of lockdown, many people have been suffering from financial difficulties, and from the restrictions to sport activities and opportunities to socialize. The level of sustained stress has overall increased, reports the Guardian, and that can represent a problem for people binge-eating or releasing their tensions in food, stresses the Journal of Eating Disorders. However, the lockdown has also created the right environment for many people to get to know themselves and make changes in their lives.

“They will just eat to feel that void,” Beste Aydoğan talks about emotional eating, Audio by Margherita Capacci

“Food is just a very short-term happiness,” says Beste Aydoğan, emotional hunger “is about some other needs that you really have to fulfill, like being connected to other people, have a good job, a good marriage, and a good relationship with yourself.” Beste experienced that after treating one of her first patients. “I did not even think about food for hours,” she says, “because I felt just happy and satisfied from a very deep perspective.”

While Beste focuses on making the patients aware of their negative and untrue thoughts, trying to improve their relationship with themselves, her sister, Ezgi Aydoğan, works on reconnecting people to their bodies and making them aware of their deeper needs and feelings. One of the tools she uses is the hunger scale, that helps understanding how and when to eat.

“It is about mindful eating,” the hunger scale explained by Beste Aydoğan, Audio by Margherita Capacci
Hunger Scale, Figure by Marshfield Clinic Health System

The program consists of eight online sessions, once a week, and tries to counter the diet mentality. “The more restrictions you put on certain foods, the more they become appealing to you,” says Beste Aydoğan. So her mother, Zümrüt Aydoğan, directs people toward a varied diet and suggests them the adequate amount of food to consume, even for traditional no-gos like chips and chocolate.

“If the problem with food is not food itself but what you let go through it, then you are not going to follow something that constraints you,” says Roberta, talking about her failed diet plans.

“My sister want people to have a big fun out of eating,” says Beste Aydoğan. “It is something very nice to nourish yourself,” she says smiling, explaining the central role that food plays in the Turkish culture.

Since its creation, the business has been growing rapidly, reaching 14 patients in around three weeks. So far, the people, who according to Beste seem to respond positively to the sessions, have all been Turks living abroad, but the plan is to open Beden Zihin Besin to the English-speaking population.

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