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Comfort foods and "habit" eating

Posted Oct 13 2007 6:45pm 13 Comments
I've been struggling lately with an overwhelming desire for my comfort foods, especially soft pretzels, or if I can't have those, just a desire to eat something at the end of the day, just before bed. This tends to happen when I'm surfing the net or watching television.
I'm not sure if this is an actual term for such a feeling, but I call it "habit eating." I've done it for so long, that even now though I'm trying to lose weight and eat better, I still feel as if I deserve a snack at the end of the night.
Anyone else out there face this problem? How do you deal?
Comments (13)
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I know what you mean about habit eating and comfort foods. For me it's a tendency to feel like I deserve a dessert after dinner. One thing that I've discovered is that I can sometimes feel satisfied with a smaller portion as long as I still get to have the taste. I've heard that it takes 2-3 weeks to make or break habits so it's a long time to get used to not having that snack. My method right now is just to try to reduce rather than eliminate completely.
Wow Kristen you really struck home with this question and your explanation. I am sure there is a specific phrase, but habit eating works fine. I think people do it because our brains automatically think "Oh well im sitting here staring at the tv, it would be a lot more entertaining and a better experience if i were eating . It is an extreme habit I am still trying to break. Barely have. GOOD LUCK!
Thank you for writing. I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I love sitting with a book, or watching TV, and having a snack to munch on. I almost can't do these activities at the end of the day without something to eat. It's an addiction. I've started eating frozen grapes or plain popcorn. They're both healthy and slow to eat (especially the frozen grapes) so I can eat a pretty small quantity over a long period of time. Thanks for writing, though. It's good to know I have company!
I completely agree with you. Whenever I get the urge to zone out in front of the TV, I tend to want to eat something. Preferably, something greasy and junkie, to match the caliber of television I'm watching, I think. :) Food is such a social habit that it's ingrained in us to want to have it. I mean, look at spectator sports and things like going to the movies. Sitting and watching and eating are activities that seem to go hand in hand. I think that a large part of the solution comes from being more active and transitioning from that spectator role to one that is more proactive and healthy.
I think so many people struggle with this, but good for you for taking a look at this problem area and seeking alternatives. As cliched as it might sound, that really is the first step. And, I think it is not such a bad thing to want a is the amount and what it is that can be problematic. I think having good, healthy (yet still fufilling) snacks on hand is key. Also, I've found that occupying my hands with knitting or even holding a warm cup of tea, can keep those pesky hands from feeling idle and needing to grab something (like food) to feel satisfied.

I do! I used to have a similar problem but I later realised that it is always something else in my life/ in me that need to be fixed before this problem can be fixed. While... hope I won't be offening you in anyways... GOD has helped me!!! Now I can really enjoy eating and eat in a healthy manner, rather let the desire of eatting to control me.

That's just my story, by no means I am implying anything on you =) And here are some helping tips,
Switch to a bowl of fruit =)
Wear a tummy warme, it really helps me to "feel full"
Put a piece of Nutrition fact in front of you and circle the "dangerous numbers"

Nirmala said it, certain activities "seem to go hand in hand". Like "sitting AND eating" or "riding a bike AND burning calories". It's hard to eat while jogging and the food usually doesn't stay down anyway. I think the key is to do more activities that make it hard to eat while doing. The other thing that goes hand in hand is "feeling more energetic and healthy AND losing interest in eating junky food". Hang in there.....
When my husband is in charge of snack, he makes veggies and ranch dip or air-popped popcorn. i deal with it because i'm lazy in the kitchen. I'd rather just have a snack handed to me than have to go prepare it myself! I'm hoping if he forces me to eat enough veggies, I'll eventually start to crave them instead of sweets or chocolate. *Crosses fingers* Maybe you could try that too. Pick something healthy to eat every night for a week (veggies) and see if after that week, you crave them rather than your salty snack.

Teresa, that's a really good idea. I just have to stay away from the pretzels, which my boyfriend enjoys and buys for the house, and I don't want to deny him the right to have around the house.

AND if I can convince him to make me the healthy snack after a long day at work, even better! :)

Yes, I do the same thing - love those evening snacks! You just have to create a new habit in its place. How about a glass of red wine! That's healthy. I used to do the popcorn thing, but even the low fat, low cal, mini-bags are a blood sugar spiker.
The best way that I have found to reduce habit eating food is to cut out carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta and sugar. When you blood sugar is balanced, you are less likely to crave foods such as pretzels. Have loads of nuts and dried fruit around to eat when you are craving.
Take a look at whether you can eat just one. If you can't, you might actually be slightly allergic! I could eat an entire bag of Orange Milanos... and I've been told that this might indicate food allergies. So, I don't eat them at all. Or, just try to0 eat one or one small one. One small soft pretzel doesn't seem to be too much of a vice.

I can definitely relate to this. The hardest part is to break the habit, once you've broken it, a new habit will form (I think they say 3 weeks to form/break any habit). For me, I started to crochet while I watched tv. (I know, senior citizen moment, but it worked for me) Now I no longer need to crochet to be able to watch TV and not want to eat. I've created a new habit. Also I stopped eating after 8pm. It was difficult at first, but soon I could no longer imagine eating after 8pm.

My suggestion would be to find something to do w/your hands while you're watching TV. Maybe it will help. :)

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