Many of us at one time or another have eaten for comfort. It’s common to reach for food when we are bored, stressed, unhappy with life, upset, or depressed. So we eat in an attempt to feel better, get rid of the boredom, de-stress, or cheer up.
Yet while we reach to the food for comfort, in the end it does the exact opposite. When you eat for comfort you don’t eat for pleasure and savor the taste, smell and texture of the food. Instead, you eat mindlessly and afterwards are more likely to feel miserable and guilty about overeating. In fact, you probably end up feeling worse after the comfort eating than you did before! Most of the time, eating fails to provide you with the comfort you seek.If you have relied too much on comfort eating to get rid of stress or cheer you up, you may now be carrying the effects of that comfort eating in the form of extra weight. So the first thing people often do is go on some type of diet plan.
But while following the diet plan, eating becomes a set of rules and not a pleasant, sensory relationship. For instance, your focus shifts on how many calories, points, carbohydrates or fat grams you can have. So your comfort foods, like pizza, macaroni &
cheese, chocolate, or cake are now considered “bad” or guilty foods. So you’re even more tempted to treat yourself to these forbidden foods. Hey, we all want what we can’t have, right?
Diet plans may solve the upper layer problem, meaning they will help you lose weight, at least in the short run.
[alert-success]But they don’t provide a solution to the underlying core needs and desires.[/alert-success]
Your core needs and desires are about wanting to enjoy life more fully, feeling secure and safe in your life, and being able to handle your emotions in an empowered way. If you overeat for comfort, one effective solution involves learning to create a new relationship with food.
Here’s a powerful tool I learned in France which can help you change your comfort eating habits and lose weight:
Create a Pleasurable Eating Experience
In our fast-paced lives, we have lost some of the pleasure that food provides and that is found in cultures around the world. I experienced this firsthand in my travels to Italy and when I lived in France. When was the last time you took just a few minutes to really explore the food you were eating — how it smells, the texture, the colors, the way it feels in your mouth? Did you think about where it came from? How it was grown or how it got to the table? Because we often eat mindlessly, we often take larger bits or overconsume food because subconsciously we are not getting the innate pleasure food can provide.
If now you’re thinking “I DO enjoy food — I just enjoy it too much” you’re not looking deep enough. The enjoyment of food is not just the moment it’s in your mouth. It’s the whole experience: picking out the food, cutting it up and preparing it, setting the table, having good conversation with friends and family.Decide today to take one meal a week and turn it into a pleasure, full sensory, enjoyable experience. Choose a meal that would be enjoyable for you and fun to cook. Get the family involved, turn off the tv and put some music on. Or even invite some friends over. There’s no better way to get reconnected with friends than by sharing something you’ve made. And it doesn’t have to be fancy. Just something simple that you enjoy. Be focused on the food and the time you’re spending on doing something good for you and your family.You can even place flowers on the table and make a nice setting. As you eat, let your taste buds truly experience the food. But also relax, talk and enjoy the company of others. As you take in the experience of eating and digesting, you’ll notice there is less a need to stuff your stomach. We eat with more than just our stomach — all of our senses are involved and we should allow them to experience the meal to it’s fullest.
Remember, we don’t just eat with our mouths. We eat with our nose, our eyes, and even our ears.
Treat yourself and decide you are deserving and give yourself the gift of pleasure and enjoyment. So just take one meal this week. Once you start experiencing food differently, you’ll see that you start to participate in LIFE differently. Soon you’ll start to see that even more things in life will become pleasurable, and you’ll find yourself eating less, feeling more satisfied — and more fulfilled — in more ways than one.
Answers and Questions:
[toggle title="Mary"]Good article. I don’t transition between tasks well. I tend to eat for comfort between tasks for this reason. I also eat for comfort when stressed. Your comments on making meals an event are so true. My favorite meal is Sunday lunch/brunch. After a trip to the farmers market (when weather permits) to buy fresh veggies and fruits, I head home to turn on music and cook a big meal for family that comes over. I love the whole process and it is the one meal all week I plan for and thoroughly enjoy. Being a working mom of two grown girls and one still at home; time to enjoy meals is getting more scarce. I hate when eating is just another task on my to do list. Thanks for the reminder to make eating more than a task.[/toggle]
[toggle title="Julie"]Great post. I really believe that there are HUGE numbers of people out there comfort eating and not even really knowing they are doing it. Mindfulness is the key. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.[/toggle]
[toggle title="Trish @iamSucceeding"]I totally get this…emotions are my trigger…working on the why’s
.-= Trish @iamSucceeding´s last blog[/toggle]
[toggle title="darya"]Wow Dinneen, what a fantastic article! You’re right it is a great match to the guest post at Summer Tomato today. I bookmarked this and am looking forward to sharing it with my readers[/toggle]
[toggle title="Catherine"]I enjoyed reading your article. I have found that planning meals and not having to worry about what the next meal is has given me back the pleasure in cooking and eating and controlled comfort eating.[/toggle]
[toggle title="Dinneen"]@ Mary — yes, eating & preparing meals definitely should not be a daily “task”…it needs to be something we look forward to. Okay, we don’t have to love doing it every day, but when we take the time to really savor & enjoy our food, we start enjoying the entire process. And I love you have a Sunday brunch/lunch! Ever want to invite any guests, I’m available@ Julie — Mindfulness is definitely key!! And I do find there are many people who eat for comfort who don’t even realize it. That’s what I love about my job, helping people “see” things, as only then they can begin to make some changes.@ Trish — do try to find out the “why”. Emotions are a huge trigger for many people. When you eat (even snacking) take a moment to think about why you’re eating: are you hungry, or just dealing with an emotion?@ Darya — thanks for your support! You’re blog is such a good read it makes me proud you enjoy mine too@ Catherine — Planning is a great way to avoid just grabbing whatever is available, and there’s something to be said about knowing that your next meal is planned. Definitely helps take out the stress and makes eating & cooking more controlled and enjoyable.[/toggle]
[toggle title="Foodie McBody"]DInneen, this is a great post. I recently had the experience of going out to a place where I used to do MAJOR comfort eating. My favorite dish was warm soft polenta – often with stewed fruit. It was my go-to food for any sort of stress. I hadn’t been there in months but a friend offered to take me for a belated birthday breakfast. When I saw the menu I immediately zeroed in on the polenta. I MISSED it. I thought, I 'should' get eggs. I LIKE eggs. But I have been eating hundreds of them. I sighed. What to do?I ordered the polenta. I can’t do stewed fruit any more (too much sugar on TOP of the carbs!) It had goooey melted cheese and a splash of olive oil. OMG. SO SO decadent. I tasted a spoonful. I almost died from ecstasy. It was soooooooo good. I licked the spoon. I put it down and talked to my friend. We got all involved in the conversation. I had another spoonful. In the end, I had maybe 4 spoonfuls of this stuff and I was full. And happy. I was done. I asked them to take the bowl away, which still had at least half left.I have NEVER experienced polenta like that before. I thought of you and the pleasure principle.Also I still maintained my weight this week. That made me happy. (did I mention I also had pizza one night?) Part of me is feeling kind of — “Oh I got away with it!” I feel like there’s something a little off about this thinking. Probably better to think, I enjoyed my food, it was yummy, I exercised, I stayed healthy yay! But part of me is kind of rubbing my hands together, thinking, I GOT AWAY WITH IT.What say you?[/toggle]