It’s a funny expression, isn’t it? According to the dictionary, comfort means to “soothe in times of affliction” or “a condition of feeling of well-being, contentment and pleasurable ease.”
But actually the truth of comfort eating is that it does none of those things.
Oh sure, it might make you feel better temporarily. And by that I mean distract from whatever is making you unhappy. But that distraction probably only lasts as long as it takes to eat the Kit-Kat or Krispy Kreme donut or whatever it is.
Once it’s down the hatch, you will not only still have the pain of whatever caused you to comfort eat, but on top of all that you now have to deal with the guilt of eating some calorie-laden junk.
In a (chocolate brazil) nutshell, you will have two problems instead of one.
Some comfort, eh?
So why do we do it? Why does a bout of misery send us racing for the bad carbs like Red Rum on Grand National Day?
Simple really. From the moment we first uttered a cry of discontentment as tiny babies we were soothed with a bottle of sugary milk. Then, as children when we fell over and banged ourselves, it was a hug and a biscuit that took the edge off. So, as adults, we are programmed to make ourselves feel better whenever we cry, get angry or get stressed with sugar.
Okay, now we know why we do it, how can we undo it?
Firstly, stop referring to it as “comfort eating”. By using those words you making that mental association with something that is going to soothe us, make everything better, bring us contentment. In other words, you are unwittingly creating an excuse for eating that bar of chocolate. You’re making it sound appealing. “I’d had a stressful day and I was comfort eating.” You are blindly accepting what you do without questioning it. You’re making it legitimate. “It’s a comfort-eating thing”.
But when it comes down to it, how much comfort is that piece of cheesecake is truly going to bring you?
As a child with a banged-up knee, a biscuit probably did help. It distracted you just long enough so that the pain went away and everything was okay again by the time you’d finished eating it.
But as an adult, the causes of your stress, anger, pain, disappointment are not likely to be alleviated in the time it takes to eat that cake. In other words, rationalise with yourself. That calorie-laden sugary treat will not take the pain away. It will not soothe you.
In fact, from a physical point of view, that’s the last thing it does. A processed, refined-carb treat will elevate your blood sugar, stress your liver out and cause you to have an energy crash.
When you look at it like that, it doesn’t sound very soothing at all now, does it?
In fact, it sends your organs and hormones into such turmoil, it should be called ‘discomfort eating.”
So, in summary, next time you have a bust up with your boss and you find yourself with your hand in the office biccie tin, here’s what to do:
- Stop. Become aware of what you are doing. Focus on how this will only distract you from the problem for a matter of seconds. Ask yourself: “Do I really want to have two things making me feel bad, instead of just one?”
- Think about how down you’ll feel once you’ve eaten something you don’t really want. You’re just being pushed towards the malted milks because your subconscious is trying to make you happy and remembering that when you were knee high to a grasshopper, this used to do it for you.
- Go distract yourself with something else. Go for a walk round the block, phone a wise friend. Go bang the toilet seat to let off steam. Do whatever you need to do but don’t reach for the treats.
- If none of that is working, set an alarm on your phone for five minutes. Do some deep belly breathing and try to let to sugar craving storm blow over.
The more times you do this, the easier it will get. That should be a comfort to you now!
Oh, and in case of emergencies, you can always download your free ebook from clean eating guru and all-round goddess, Shelley Roe, including some awesome sweet but not naughty treats like her amazing caramel slices! Just click here: http://noexcusesnutrition.co.uk/free-recipes/