Comfort Food

When I’m ill, I eat. When I’m angry, I eat. When I’m sad, I eat. When I’m happy, I eat.

junk food
Credit: PeterBrough

. . . there is a phrase to describe this, used by my Get Healthy coach and by the nurse I used to see back in 2013: ’emotional eater.’ There are tonnes of blogs about this—I’ve even read a couple connected to the MyFitnessPal app—but what they’re really bad at is telling me how to change this.

Oh, they have plenty of tips:

  • Divert the need to eat into something else
  • Substitute the junk foods for healthier alternatives
  • Exercise instead

But honestly? If it was as simple as that, they there wouldn’t be any overweight ’emotional eaters’ because we’d be able to apply those tips and trim down.

The obvious solution is to work on the things that generate those emotions in me, but that doesn’t seem to work either. At least not quickly.

I’m not exactly sure of what I’m trying to get at here, but I think writing these facts down so I can see them in black and white will help me acknowledge and truly admit that this sort of eating is a problem for me. Knowing something in your head is very different to saying it out loud.

I have made some changes; swapping big bags of crisps for multipacks, so I only have a pack at a time; substituting milk chocolate for dark chocolate, in the hopes that I eat less of the latter; making those multipacks of crisps a ‘lighter’ or ‘baked’ brand, so they have less fat in; keeping any sweets I do have in a hard to reach place, meaning I have to put in effort to reach them. I’ve even started going to bed earlier hoping that will stave off the snacking I tend to do while watching a movie late a night.

I don’t know if any of this is working or having an affect, but at least it feels like I’m doing something. And, for what it’s worth, here is my advice on ’emotional eating.’

Yes, finding the root cause of whatever your current emotional issue happens to be is a good thing, but also accept that blindly trying to just ‘cut the things that comfort you’ is hard. So hard that when you don’t manage it (and you won’t immediately), you’ll do nothing but make yourself feel worse: a failure, a fool, destined to be overweight forever.

Instead, work with yourself and allow yourself to have the things you want in moderation. Make yourself work for them.

If you want crisps, have them, but make yourself leave the house and walk to the shop to buy them. Then, if you can, buy a small packet. If you want chocolate, do the same and test yourself: have a nibble and put it aside. You may find that after one bite or two, you feel better.

If you don’t need to eat the whole packet to achieve the effect you’re looking for, then by all means, stop when you feel better and put the remains of whatever you’re eating in a hard to reach place for next time. Better yet, give it to someone else to finish so you have to start from scratch next time and walk to the shop to load up again.

I’m finding, as I do this, that my desire for these junk foods is steadily decreasing anyway. Yes, I’ll still have a bag of crisps (or three!) if I feel rotten, but by the second pack, there’s a niggle, a little voice in my mind telling me that I’m okay now. And, if/when I get to the end of that third bag, I recognise that I didn’t need it. Yes . . . I’ve eaten it by that point, but I consider it a personal victory to be able to acknowledge that I didn’t need to because I felt better. To understand that eating it was an automatic reflex rather than a need/desire. Next time, I’ll eat the first bag, and pay attention to how I feel before I even consider opening the second. Maybe I’ll eat two next time; but it won’t be three and that, no matter how you spin it, is progress.

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Credit: libberry

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