We all tend to comfort eat from time to time, it’s just some of us do it more than others. This happens more so when we feel low, stressed or lonely or even if we just want to make ourselves feel better.
The majority of us are doing it without even being aware of it. Mindlessly eating, reaching for that extra biscuit with that cup of tea, grabbing that not so good for us chocolate bar at the supermarket checkout. Then there’s the second or third helping, you know what I’m talking about. The extra helpings because we enjoyed the first one so much. Most of the time we comfort eat when we’re not really hungry at all.
When you stick to a healthy diet for a short period of time, losing weight is not the challenging part. The hard part is keeping it off by not overeating again.
Worldwide, there are over 1 billion overweight adults, with at least 300 million of them clinically obese. The definition of an obese person is one with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30.
So the question to ask, is why do we overeat? Why aren’t more people living a healthy lifestyle when no one ever wants to be fat?
Let’s take a closer look at the causes of obesity.
Let’s analyze what comfort eating is. It means we eat food when we are feeling depressed, sad, disappointed, upset, stressed, frustrated, sensitive, vulnerable, rejected and many other painful and unpleasant emotions. It is when we are in this frame of mind that we often turn to large quantities of high fat, high sugar, refined and processed foods to comfort and relieve the pain.
People often have an emotional attachment to food, so when they are feeling down they eat as a reward or to self-soothe. It is a ‘drug’ of choice; leading to an unbalanced vicious cycle which leads to yet another and then comes back around to haunt you.
The more stressed you are, the more you may eat, the more pain you may create through increased weight or compounded guilt, and round and round it goes. Winning requires breaking this cycle and moving into another cycle altogether.
Steps to break out of Comfort Eating
First things first, recognize that you …
1. Comfort eat
2. Do not eat because you are hungry
3. Eat because you have an emotional need
The next step is to find other less harmful and less self-destructive ways to relieve the emotional need to eat. There is no point in quitting comfort eating if you take up smoking, drink, drugs or other destructive habits!
It’s easy to understand why we are so drawn to the high fat and sugar foods. It’s in our genes to be attracted to high calorie foods. In times of scarcity, eating them kept you alive. It wasn’t so much survival of the fittest but rather survival of the fattest.
Here are a few ideas to help you avoid comfort eating and find other ways to soothe yourself:
Regular exercise is a great way to lift your spirits. It also has the added benefits of improving sleep and concentration, increases stamina and reduces headaches. Endorphins are released into the brain during exercise and those chemicals promote a sense of positiveness and happiness that will last some time after the activity.
So the next time you need to self soothe don't mindlessly pick up the packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate. Put on your trainers and go out for a lovely, long walk. It's a wonderful way to a healthy body and a healthy mind.
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !