We might as well face it, comfort eating is at an all-time high. Our lives get more and more hectic all the time. It seems like ever since 9/11, there has been a lot written about comforting ourselves and calming our fears.
One of the biggest reasons people overeat is for self-soothing.
When stress and uncertainty increase, we turn to what we know, especially if it has associations of a simpler and safer time in our lives.
In a crisis, we call friends and family members. Just the sound of a loved one’s voice can be soothing. In the everyday crises of our lives, it’s easy to come home after a long day of putting out fires and turn to something we know – comfort eating.
Unfortunately, the ultimate comfort eating foods are often loaded with carbohydrates and fat – macaroni and cheese, chocolate chip cookies, etc. They’re quick to fix (or grab) and boy, do they go down easy.
And somewhere in the back of your memory, they invoke glimpses of another time – perhaps for a brief moment, you are back in the warm comfort of your mom’s kitchen on a winter day.
Not that there’s anything wrong with comfort food. It can be a great soother. The backlash comes when it becomes the primary way you know to soothe your frazzled nerves.
And if you continue to use comfort eating to comfort, the pounds keep adding on and then you need more comforting because of the distress the extra weight has caused!
You have just created a vicious cycle.
To manage things more effectively, don’t ban comfort foods altogether, but bring more awareness to when and how you comfort yourself.
Have a range of comforts available to you, so that you feel like you have a choice. You may be in the habit of grabbing food on the way or as soon as you walk in the door.
Try to break that habit by developing a new habit.
Do something totally different – it doesn’t matter what it is (drink a glass of ice water, stand on your head, etc.) as long as it is completely different from your usual routine.
Make a list of activities that comfort you and start doing them on a regular basis. That will help you build a new habit of using other ways to soothe yourself besides eating.
It can be ever so small. Call a friend. Stand up and stretch. Take a few deep breaths.
Small things can make a big difference.
Be creative when you make your list. Brainstorm. Write down everything you can think of whether it’s practical or not.
Identify those times of the day that are most difficult for you and have your list handy. Transition times can be troublesome, such as transitioning from work to home, or home to work, and that pesky mid-afternoon time when your energy needs a boost.
Our lives are busy and often difficult. You are going to need comfort, so be proactive and figure out how to give it to yourself often in a healthy way.
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