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Comfort Food & Emotional Eating: How To Be The Boss

Posted Oct 27 2011 4:25pm

Do you eat for comfort? If we’re honest, we can all say yes to this question, from time to time at least.

The RARE indulgence (say, for example, a nose-dive into a pint of Haagen-Dazs dulce de leche in front of an open freezer door after ending a 4.5-year-long toxic relationship with a total narcissist and cat-hater…ahem…) is not going to kill anyone. But I think we all know this is not a great habit if it happens too often. Turning to food for every little speedbump in life? Not a good idea.

I read an interesting thing recently, about the differences between men and women and their comfort eating habits (in the book Mindless Eating, which I reviewed recently ).

When surveyed about their top comfort food choices, men tend to name things like pasta, soup, and meatloaf. Women, on the other hand, tend to name ice cream, cookies, and chocolate.

Why the difference?

One theory: men feel “taken care of” or “doted upon” with these foods. Meals like mom always made…right? But for a woman, soup or meatloaf or lasagne represents, typically, work. Because they’re the ones cooking these comforting meals! Which turns out to be not so comforting if you’re the one slaving in front of a stove.

The comfort foods that women gravitate towards are snackish: quick bites, scarfed down with nary a cutting board or Crock Pot in sight. And certainly without dishes to wash afterwards. And that, my friends, is comfort in my book.

Fascinating, no?

So, the question is: how do we get that comfort factor without having to go up a jeans size?

Start by re-training yourself to pay attention to those emotional eating cues. When your fingers start twitching toward the cookie tin, ask yourself: Am I really hungry? Really? No, I mean, like truly hungry?

If not, maybe you need to seek comfort elsewhere. Spa, anyone? Call a friend? Listen to your favorite music?

Beyond dealing with immediate urges, you might need to take a look at your greater need to deal with stress. And this requires a more cohesive strategy. Breathing exercises are a great place to start, and from there it depends on your personal preferences: regular exercise, meditation , yoga…

Also, set up your environment so it’s not your enemy. If you know you are a weak, weak woman in the presence of All-Dressed Ruffles…don’t keep them in the house. Sure, you can always drive to the store to pick up a bag, or five, but making it that much harder for yourself will help. Plus the drive will give you a moment for a sober second thought. And to talk yourself down from the precipice.

Get organized with your snacking. Meaning, keep your house/desk/purse stocked with quick and easy bites that are healthy. Like baby carrot sticks. Walnuts in a snack-size ziploc. Fruit.

Okay, I know baby carrots are an exceedingly poor substitute for chocolate. But it just may fill up that little corner or satisfy the need to munch on something long enough for you to distract yourself. Or get yourself outside for a walk, or to the yoga studio, or to your best friend’s house, or whatever it takes to abort the impending breakdown that triggered the chocolate craving in the first place.

Baby carrots. So crazy it just might work.

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