What do macaroni and cheese, ice cream, and potato chips have in common? They’re all considered comfort foods. Emotional eaters can consume an entire package, container or bag in just a fraction of time. Consuming all that food usually does not solve the dilemma that has lead to depression, anxiety and worry, but it sure feels good while you’re eating. Well it feels good until you step on your bathroom scale and realize that your comfort food habit is really adding up to an enormous amount of weight. Realizing that you cannot just wish this habit away, seek out some simple strategies that will help you live with a comfort food habit.
First, try analyzing your favorite comfort food in terms of your senses. What is it about that food that you like so much? Is it the crunchy texture? Is it the sweet taste? Is it the childhood memories of being carefree while eating it? Whatever it is that you find so appealing, you can try to find a healthier substitute that can still satisfy your needs. For a crunchy substitute, try carrots. For sweet tooth, try dried fruit. For that favorite childhood memory, try popcorn without the butter or a box of raisins like your mom used to pack in your lunch box. Yes, go ahead and play with your food if that would help bring back some fond images of your childhood. Substituting one food for another food can be equally soothing because comfort is founded in the mind, not in the object that you hold. As long as you are open to change, new associations between food and comfort can be formed.
If you cannot find alternative foods to fill your need for comfort, try finding an alternative activity. Rather than eating, you might find a different experience just as relaxing. Physical activity can move you away from the food sources and allow you to drain some negative energy. Hobbies of enjoyment can redirect your mind away from the hurts. Other sources of relaxation include: meditation, massage, or companionship. Substituting an unhealthy habit for a healthy habit is a great way to transform into a healthier you.
But if you are still drawn to your favorite comfort food, don’t beat yourself up. Go ahead and indulge, but do it mindfully. Instead of wolfing down your favorite snack, savor your food, eat it slowly, and think about how it feels, tastes and smells. All of these mindful activities will help you control your portion and stop shoveling. If you can reduce the amount of food that it takes to satisfy you, then it’s OK to have a comfort food habit. If you eat responsibly, you can still experience the joy of food.
Cuddling up to comfort food is not going to change anything in your life except your waistline. What you can change is what you choose to eat, what you choose to do in times of stress and how you choose to eat your favorite food. The choice is yours: react to stress in a healthy way or react to stress in an unhealthy way. Because like it or not, life is meant to be stressful from the time you’re born to the time you die. Thus, living with a comfort food habit can also be a lifelong endeavor. Instead of struggling to suppress your basic need for comfort, fill your need by making smarter decisions.
Published On: March 19, 2013