Comfort eating is not a “bad” behavior. We’ve all done it, and for good reason! My intention here is to open your mind to a more positive and overlooked practice, which is:
To acknowledge the beautiful lessons that comfort eating holds, and to honor its purpose in a healthy way.
Here’s why this matters…
When we try to ignore our feeling driven behaviors, we do ourselves a disservice. Any time the human brain searches for comfort, there must be a sensible motivator. When it comes to food, we often confuse what may be necessary with what’s “wrong” due to society’s constructed expectations of how one should behave in order to be healthy, weigh an “ideal” weight, etc.
Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs…
Just below physiological, there is the need for safety, love and belonging. Our need to belong and feel accepted by others may drive our urge to resist undesirable behaviors like eating too much or doing anything that could cause weight gain. However, there are many reasons why one might cling to food…
- To gain “safety” from “predators”
- To feel loved
- To be comforted in times of distress
- and so much more
Consider the nature of an infant. Whenever it cries, one of the first things a mother does is offer the bottle or her breast for nourishment. There was an association made between food and comfort since before the baby could speak! This is NORMAL and healthy. Throughout your lifetime, your body and mind will do everything in their power to keep you alive – that’s their job – and your brain thinks in black and white. Now, as an adult, distress doesn’t always come from hunger. However, realize that food is often the most readily available form of “nourishment” we have – our quickest path to comfort.
Understanding this, how can you begin to HONOR your need for comfort rather than resist it?
First, it’s important to know that a “healthy” dose of stress, emotional or comfort eating varies from person to person. To find what is right for you, invite awareness and curiosity to the table. When you find yourself comfort eating… HOW are you eating? Do you savor every bite of grandma’s cookie recipe as it brings feelings of warmth and love? Or do you mindlessly binge on Oreos as you watch television and AVOID any sense of pain or discomfort? Can you see the difference?
Hold the responsibility for yourself to discern between eating that serves you and eating that does not serve you. Practice awareness before, during, and after each time you eat. You’ll start to recognize at what times you are in need of comfort and, with this awareness, explore how else you can satisfy that need.
As a collective, we need to stop resisting and shaming comfort eating. Rather, let’s honor the highly intelligent purpose it has! Can we learn to tap into our behavior and explore other ways of honoring our basic human needs?
Insightful. Passionate. Empathetic.
Lindsey Antman is a holistic wellness & eating psychology coach, and the founder of Mind Body Kitchen. Lindsey also holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. When she’s not enjoying time with her loved ones in the kitchen, or savoring new flavors at a local restaurant, you can find her at the studio practicing and teaching yoga.
Lindsey’s mission is helping people gain clarity in their relationship with food and learn how to nourish their body in a sustainable way. Her goal is to make an impact through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, workshops, and teaching yoga. You can follow her on Instagram @mindbody_kitchen and find her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mindbodykitchen/