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  • Kathryn

The comfort in eating

This week I will be discussing eating, more specifically comfort eating.

The majority of us have experienced it at some point in our lives; the overpowering desire for a food that maybe isn’t necessarily good for you, but will make you happy – even for just a few moments.

In times of stress, we tend to do one of two things – either we lose our appetites and the thought of eating makes you want to vomit, or we run towards food like nothing else matters. During my 30 years of life, I have experienced both. Losing my appetite following a breakup alongside training for a marathon is not a good combination, meaning I was force feeding myself purely for the need of fuel. On the other end of the spectrum, I have eaten for comfort. As a teenager, and definitely during one of my lowest points, eating was sometimes the only thing to look forward to.

The definition of comfort eating is,

“Eating to make oneself happier, rather than to satisfy hunger.”

With this definition in mind, I am guilty of comfort eating on a regular basis.

This year in particular, I have felt the desire to comfort eat more than before. Feeling slightly down, with nowhere to go and not much to look forward to, has meant a mid-week takeaway and devouring a pack of biscuits is, sadly, all the more exciting.

Now, I don’t believe that comfort eating is entirely bad – with the current circumstances that extra slice of cake or glass of wine is sometimes required. However, what we don’t want is for it to become a habit that affects your way of life, health or happiness. Like all good things, it’s finding moderation.

When it comes to managing what I eat, here are few things I find helpful:

  1. Focus on the good things in your diet. Try not to have a ‘can’t have’ attitude towards your food. Instead, focus on the foods you should be getting in your diet, such as your five a day. By doing this, you fill yourself up more without even thinking and at least you know your body is nourished.

  2. Plan your meals. I have never been one to follow a strict nutritional plan, but having an idea of what you’re going to eat and when, can be very beneficial. I know I'm less likely to go hunting out the biggest cake I can find if I have a delicious lunch to look forward to or have prepared some snacks.

  3. Allow yourself the foods that make you feel good. By telling yourself you can’t have something, it will make you want it even more. Give yourself permission to eat whatever you like. Maybe it’s something sweet – having a couple of biscuits every day is not going to kill you, and knowing you can have more the next day makes it easier to stop. Love a take away? Then have one every week! Again, there are ways to manage how much and what you’re eating, but it doesn’t mean it has to be off the table completely.

  4. Keep busy and find something else that makes you feel good. We comfort eat because it makes us feel good, but more often than not, it can be because we’re bored. If it’s the latter, filling up your time with activities can help. You may be at home all day, but there is no reason you can’t have focus and purpose to your day.

  5. Hydration is key. Boring, but true. Drink more water.

I am a personal trainer, and I can honestly say that if I see one more influencer showing off their washboard stomachs while all I want to do is curl up on the sofa with a yum yum, I might scream (and eat the yum yum). We’re in the middle of a pandemic. It is great to look good, but it really doesn’t matter right now. I share these tips so that comfort eating doesn’t take over your life and health. Eating to make you feel good is OK in moderation, but it’s not if it’s the only that’s making you happy. Ultimately planning how you can manage your mood and appetite is key.

I hope these tips have helped you not only manage your eating habits, but also understand that sometimes we don’t need to be so hard on ourselves.

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