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 is it' and 'how to avoid it' is what you are about to find out.
People often resort to eating when stressed, angry, or just plain bored. They eat even when they are not exactly hungry; they eat to satisfy themselves emotionally; they eat to seek comfort. That's comfort eating. You might have heard of 'stress eating'. The two are similar.
You eat when stressed. You give in to your temptations and pamper yourself. You 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 because you are hungry.
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 eaten typically when stressed or bored, and are known to make one feel good. So, they are known as comfort foods. While dark chocolate tops the list of these foods; desserts come next and then the ice-creams. Chips, burgers, cakes, and biscuits are not at the bottom of the list. It is said that all these have stress-relieving properties.
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.
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. You do seek comfort from eating, and many times without even realizing it.
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!
The first step in overcoming emotional eating is to decide that you would do it. Then declare it to yourself and to those around you. This step is important because when you declare, you affirm to yourself that you are going to break the bad habit. 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? If stress eating is a habit, you will need to find other avenues. 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.
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.
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, you may feel sleepy and face a mental block 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.
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.