Comfort eating

Food plays an important role in our lives that’s so much more than just providing us with energy. It’s often at the heart of family and social get togethers. We frequently go out for a meal (or order one in) to celebrate events in our lives. And many of us often turn to it for comfort when we’re feeling low, bored or stressed.

Unfortunately, as nice as the sensation of eating can be, we all know that comfort eating doesn’t actually solve the issue that we’re facing. And many people then feel bad about comfort eating, which makes the situation worse and leaves us in a vicious cycle.

So if you feel like you’re stuck in this loop, try some of the following actions and see if they help…

  • Become a detective. Many of us comfort eat without even thinking about it. It’s a habit that we automatically perform when certain things happen, so if we’re going to change it, the first step is to identify the triggers. Start noting down what’s going on in your life and how you’re feeling before, during and after a session of comfort eating.
  • Once you know what your trigger is, brainstorm how you might avoid that trigger in the future or change it. And if you can’t, at least you’re aware now – knowledge is power remember.
  • What’s forbidden is attractive, so change the way you view comfort eating. You might be less bothered about it if you’ve given yourself permission.
  • Linked to this, there’s evidence that the brain releases dopamine (a chemical involved in habit formation) when we use negative self-talk. So be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up for any comfort eating behaviours or you’re potentially throwing petrol on the fire.
  • Consider if there’s something else that you’re lacking at the moment that would nourish you in a different way. It could be as simple as rehydrating, getting some fresh air, meditating / having a mindful moment, journalling or moving your body. Or it might be more complex in terms of human connection or time for yourself. Whatever you decide on, try to break this down into the simplest, quickest action you can and try that before comfort eating. And make your go to actions visible in your environment to serve as a powerful reminder.
  • If and when you do decide to comfort eat, do it very deliberately. Decide what you’re going to have, have a small portion of it, savour it, taste it and enjoy it without guilt. Help it to achieve what you’re seeking in terms of positive sensations.
  • And finally, notice what’s working for you so you can build on this and make more positive change.

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