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Food Comfort, or Comfort Food?

Posted Jul 12 2010 10:00am

I love this article by Ann Martin!  She does a great job giving us some ideas to helping you feel great!

In times of duress, we seek out comfort foods to soothe our crazed systems and provide psychological comfort. We pull out the dinnerware and grab mom’s apple pie, gnocchi, or chocolate chip cookies – these are the foods we seem to gravitate toward instead of crunchy cucumbers, tuna fish, asparagus, or a salad. Why is this? Well the simple answer is that many of the foods we crave are full of carbohydrates, which encourage the body to produce insulin, which thereby causes the body to release serotonin. When we are stressed, our body is breaking down serotonin at a rapid rate, leaving us feeling tired, distressed, and listless. We need that serotonin to keep us stable, regulate sleep, our appetites, and provide a general sense of well being.

These foods may also provide us with a strong sense of emotional recall – they remind us of a time, event, place, or person that provided comfort, ease, or generally positive and comforting feelings. My mother bakes the best home-made chocolate chip cookies, and I find this to be one of my major comfort foods, even if they aren’t hers. I have such memories of baking them together, licking the spoon, and wrapping them up in colorful tins to give to people at the holidays. Naturally we long to recreate sensations of happiness when our minds are working against us.

Though there are better ways of dealing with our emotions, comfort food in and of itself is not necessarily evil or “bad,” or reason for guilt, if consumed in moderation. Every once in awhile, treat yourself to a beautiful plate of mashed potatoes and meatloaf on your Noritake colorware – it’s ok! But the reasons why we turn to food to calm the storm are many – to substitute for lack of feeling, to quell “too much feeling,” chemical cravings, social “requirements,” or to dull our hurt, anger, guilt, fear, resentment, and frustration. While comfort foods are perfectly fine on occasion, here are some other ways to deal with stress and your feelings.

Get enough sleep - the world will look brighter, and you’ll feel more balanced

Eat a balanced diet - your blood sugar won’t crash, and you’ll feel better

Exercise regularly - but you don’t need to chain yourself to the treadmill, find something you enjoy!

Practice Yoga - regulated breathing, increased flexibility, and a connection to something spiritual will improve your mood

Practice forgiveness -exercise the same forgiveness that you crave from others

Buy a stress ball - and throw it in your purse. Squeeze away when you are attacked by mindless nerves

Write - your feelings in a journal or word document. Get it all out

Be with people - surround yourself with uplifting, positive people who will listen and accept you as you are, but will also be your mirror and tell you the truth about yourself

Be alone - sometimes we just need to be alone with our thoughts and free of distraction

Distraction - sometimes we NEED distraction from ourselves, rent a comedy, read a book, or see a play

Focus on the now - no matter what the circumstance, focusing only on the present moment makes everything much more manageable.

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