How many times have you eaten a chocolate because you were stressed? How many times has an ice cream been a cure for your boredom? How often do you grab a packet of chips just because you are feeling restless? How often have you felt like running to the nearest cake shop to bust your frustration? How many times have you given in to your food cravings? "So many times" was your answer, right? Do you know what you were actually doing on all those occasions? You were comfort eating. Now what it is and how to avoid it, is what we are just about to find out.
We often resort to eating when stressed, angry, or just plain bored. We eat even when we are not exactly hungry; we eat to satisfy ourselves emotionally; we seek comfort in eating. That's comfort eating. You might have heard of stress eating. The two are similar. We eat when stressed. We give in to our temptations and pamper ourselves. We comfort eat. Emotional eating is what it is also known as. It means that eating is your emotional need and not physical. You eat because you want to and not because you need to.
What food you choose depends on your likings and your food cravings at that time. My comfort foods may not be the same as yours; it changes from one individual to another. Comfort foods help us achieve improved emotional status and create a sense of well-being. While my comfort food could be a bar of chocolate, yours could be a pizza, and someone else's could be a packet of biscuits. What's generally observed is that people consume their favorite foods when comfort eating. However, in some cases, people eat whatever they can get hold of. Eating something (be it anything then!) becomes important to bust that stress or cure boredom. What you are eating becomes less significant then. Certain foods are typically eaten when stressed or bored, and are known to make one feel good. They are known as comfort foods. Dark chocolate tops the list of these foods. It is said to have stress-relieving properties. Desserts come next. In fact, ice creams are a popular choice of comfort foods. Chips, burgers, cakes, and biscuits are not far below in the list. Not all these can be called healthy comfort foods, as most of them are actually junk foods. Yes, fast food is something almost everyone loves indulging in. It's okay to have healthy comfort foods once in a while. But not frequently, because when you comfort eat, you end up overeating and that leads to obesity and other health problems.
Overcoming Comfort Eating
You'll realize you had this habit since childhood. Remember how you were promised a treat if you scored well in your exam? Remember betting on winning or losing a soccer match, where the bet would be your favorite food? Haven't you treated yourself on all those occasions when you were happy about something? Though that 'eating' wasn't against any emotional turmoil, it was done for comfort. Wasn't it also a kind of comfort eating? If you think further, you will realize that you have actually comfort eaten so many times, and not only when you were happy but also when you were sad. We do seek comfort from eating, and many times without even realizing it.
Although pampering ourselves and letting our cravings win over is fine sometimes, it should definitely not become a habit. If it does, it may result in several health problems. Obesity is the most obvious effect. What's the best way to break the habit of emotional eating? It is to learn to deal with your emotions and find better ways of meeting your emotional needs. It's only you who can overcome this problem and only when you are determined to do it.
Decide, Declare, then Do!
Your first step in overcoming emotional eating is to decide that you would do it. Then declare it to yourself and to those around you (family and close friends who know). This step is important because when you declare, you affirm to yourself that you are going to break the bad habit. And positive affirmations always help. You can even put up notes in your room or in your cubicle which remind you to avoid comfort eating. Say to yourself not once but everyday, that you would be breaking the habit soon. That's a way of assuring yourself of your decision. Also, resolve to stop emotional eating and decide how you would be doing it. Make a plan, make a list of factors that make you feel like eating even when you are not hungry. See what kind of situations push you into it. Is there a particular emotional need that you satisfy through it? Ask yourself if you are in the habit of stress eating. If you are, you will need to manage stress in ways other that eating. Finding answers to such questions will help you decide what you need to do. Once you know what's causing you to comfort eat, getting rid of the habit won't be difficult. And once decided and declared, it's time to act upon your decision.
Divert your Mind
This is one of the best things to do. The moment you feel like eating and if you know it's not your hunger that's making you feel so, stop yourself from reaching out to the cookie jar on your table; stop yourself from grabbing a chocolate bar; stop! Remember, you are on a mission. Instead of having food for comfort, divert your mind to other things. Choose some fun thing to do. Go for a stroll in the garden or watch your favorite movie (that's no excuse to grab a packet of popcorn though!) or TV show. Listen to some good music or sing to yourself. Visit your neighbor, call a friend, read a good book, or surf online. Engage in your favorite hobby. Do anything that makes you comfortable, anything that diverts your mind from food.
Learn to deal with your emotions. Eating is not the way out, it's not a real stress reliever, as it gives you only a temporary feeling of joy. If you consume food when you are stressed, one of these may happen. You may feel sleepy and get a can't-think-further feeling because blood supply is directed towards the digestive system. Or you may experience bloating and a heavy feeling in the stomach. This is because the bloodstream is directed towards the brain and digestion slows down. Needless to say, this is bound to make you all the more stressed. Conclusion - eating when you are stressed is not the way to relieve it. So what do you do to drive the negative feelings away? Think positive. Think of all the good things in life. Relax your mind and body. Meditate, do yoga, hit the gym, go for a swim, go for a jog; exercising is a good way of relieving stress. Exercise works wonders for your mind and body. It rids you of negative feelings, makes you feel happy, and helps you stay fit. Manage your emotions. Control your mind. Meditation is one good way of mind control. Gain the strength to feel what you want to and not what you happen to!
You can avoid comfort eating by breaking the habit or continue to derive the temporary pleasure from eating when stressed. That's for you to decide. Understand your feelings and resort to better ways of managing them. And don't worry if you have just realized that you comfort eat. Many people do. It's just that some know, while the others don't. It's good that you have identified the problem. And now you also know the solution.