Comfort eating is a barrier to weight management and creating the healthy life you deserve. With a little practice, you can learn how to overcome the comfort eating urge and tune into your greater needs. Making peace with cravings allows for better weight management and a healthier life.
After 8 years, the emotional components of my weight loss journey still sneak up on me from time to time. I’ll be minding my own business when a smell, sound, or experience will suddenly trigger an old memory or behavior. Fortunately, I have tools now to calm the urges when they arise. To start, I remind myself of all the success I have had in navigating previous experiences. Next, I use one of the biggest resources in my toolbox. I recognize that all feelings are valid and do not need to be fixed or avoided. If I can rest with my feelings for a short time the situation will usually change on its own.
We got the nastiest flu! The entire family went down like dominoes. I am just now getting myself back on track.
I haven’t been so sick in years. In fact, I am pretty sure the last time I had such a high fever for multiple days was the winter I was away at school in Ireland. I had tonsillitis twice that year, though never before and never since. To get to the medical center I had to walk half-delirious from one side of the sprawling campus to the other. Thankfully, I didn’t have to walk for miles in the cold last week; however, reflecting on the experience brought back a lot of emotional memories.
Reaching for my food blanket
Unfortunately, my old thought process came back like a flood of memories. Suddenly, I was desperate to avoid my feelings with comfort eating. I really wanted my sick time to be a free-for-all. I longed to self-medicate with hours of television and lots of the “bad” food I normally don’t think about. Wrapping myself in a food blanket has always been a quick source of soothing for any discomfort. Comfort eating was my cure-all. Anytime I felt tired, upset, coming down with a cold, or queasy I numbed those feelings with a big helping of carbs, sugar, and fat.
Pause and reflect
“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” My 6-year-old has been pontificating this phrase to his two-year-old brother regularly. I’m not sure where he picked it up but it is certainly good advice. In the past, I would have given myself full permission to soothe my feelings in any way that felt good – and comfort eating always felt good. Anytime I want I can chow down on any food I choose. I can also choose to delay immediate gratification in favor of my long-term desire to maintain a healthy weight.
What causes comfort eating urges
When I created a safe space to reflect, I realized very few foods actually sounded good to eat. The desire I felt was to feel well not eat food. Comfort eating has never solved any of my problems, and not for lack of trying. In fact, not only does comfort eating not solve problems it usually leaves me feeling worse. If I had learned to tune into my urges years ago, I might have saved myself thousands of unhealthy calories.
Identify the true craving
Time, rest, and treating my body with care healed my flu. The urgent feelings were my brain reacting to the stress of not feeling well – fight or flight. It struck me as odd (and inconvenient) that I had to ride the roller coaster of emotional eating in the midst of being so sick. But, it feels good to be able to catch myself before my former habits take hold. In the journey to overcome comfort eating when I feel out of control, I have come a long way.