A Pauser asked me this question about COMFORT EATING:
“I call it stress eating trying to comfort my stressed body. I learnt to do it as a child/ teen. Is comfort eating normal and stress eating the bad version? First time I have ever seen comfort eating described as normal.. feels like a breath of fresh air.”
So here are some of my thoughts on comfort eating:
When stressed or emotional (or sad or angry or bored…), many people eat to comfort themselves, i.e. relieve the discomfort they find themselves in. This is an interesting strategy because it usually works – we might choose to eat something soft and sweet (I know I do!), and then we feel better! That is, for some of us, until we feel guilty or bad that we did that…
So when I say that comfort eating (or emotional eating, or stress eating as the Pauser calls it) is normal, what I mean is that it is a) quite common, and b) actually a biological thing humans do, if you think about how we might comfort/soothe a baby by putting them on the breast – we feed to comfort. Then of course we were all taught in the ‘90s that it is wrong and we should NEVER equate food with love. But this statement is problematic, because the mere act of feeding ourselves (nourishing, giving ourselves the nutrients our bodies need) is an act of (self)love…
So now we feel even worse about eating to feel better. It is true that when we eat for comfort we may not always be choosing foods that are supportive for our bodies, so we may go for foods that are heavily processed or very sugary, or crispy and salty… The idea in my work is to normalise comfort eating to the point where we don’t have to feel guilty about it, and THEN we get to be calm around our food choices and CHOOSE foods that will serve us well. We tune into the body, we learn to be intuitive about what our body needs in any given moment. And then we discover that it may not always be food. It may be something else entirely, like being held, or sleeping, or listening to music…the senses can soothe us in many ways.
Now let’s talk about stress. Stress and weight loss are not friends usually. So we need to try to be in a less stressed state when we eat so that we can give the digestive system the opportunity to do its job, i.e. digest food, assimilate nutrients, burn calories and eliminate waste. If we come to a meal feeling like we need soothing, we may be feeling stressed. We may also be feeling guilty because we made all sorts of promises to ourselves about how “healthy” we were going to eat… So the body is not in a relaxed state. This is why I advise clients to create an environment of calm for themselves to eat in. Preferably eat somewhere quiet, eat sitting down, using proper crockery and cutlery. Breathe before eating. Take some time to become present to the body and the food… So we consciously relax in order to eat. Make sense?
Perhaps you want to share here what other ways besides food you can think of or that works for you to soothe yourself.