Food is supposed to provide a certain amount of comfort when we eat it. After all, we need food to survive, so if it didn’t make us feel good, we might not eat enough to keep us healthy. However, some people turn to food almost exclusively for comfort. In a world where food is so abundant, and so easy to acquire, drawing too much comfort from it can be bad for us.
Humans, just like pets, need comfort and attention. Our bodies have functioned basically the same for millions of years, yet our environments have changed drastically. Society bombards us with stress that has become a chronic part of life. If our bodies are frequently craving comfort, and the easiest form of comfort is food, it’s logical that many people overdo it.
However, this doesn’t mean we should throw our arms up and surrender. We must fight and make changes for the sake of our health and that of society in general. It’s important to realize where the problem lies when you look to food for comfort, and to learn how to turn that around.
Stop believing in magic: Don’t wait to magically stop turning to food for comfort. It’s all under your control, and you must take charge.
Find comfort in healthy foods: People who have significantly changed their eating lifestyle and shifted their focus to a diet of nutritious foods report that they get the same, or even more, comfort from wholesome foods than the old, unhealthy ones.
Your body is programmed to find the textures, colors and fresh taste of healthy foods satisfying. According to some recent studies, as you eat better, your body’s gut flora is altered and your food cravings change, replacing the desire for unhealthy foods with a yearning for healthier ones. In time, you won’t enjoy eating the way you used to because it will no longer be comforting.
Expand your comfort horizons: Enhance your life so that there’s less need to seek comfort. If you don’t have other pleasurable and comforting things, you’ll only have food to turn to when you need comfort. Every area of your life should have something that gives you comfort. Break the computer habit and spend time getting in touch with nature to give your mind solace. Take a short nap to give your body a comfort break. Replace toxic relationships with healthy ones.
Adopt a comforting inner voice: Listen to how you talk to yourself. A kind, compassionate and encouraging inner voice will comfort you.
Get a pet: Pet owners know that pets are unconditional deliverers of comfort. It’s also well known that pets are therapeutic and can have an appreciable and positive effect on your feeling of well-being.
Get some exercise: Your body needs activity. People who exercise regularly and vigorously know the feeling of comfort after a good workout. Sometimes you may be reaching for food when what you need is to release some pent-up energy.
Get some rest: On the flip side, your body gets tired and needs rest. If you don’t get ample relaxation and good sleep, you’ll pay for it. Compulsive eating, for example, is your body’s way of trying to find comfort when you’re not supplying it.
Have some fun: Life isn’t supposed to be all work and seriousness. That kind of life becomes uncomfortable before long. Finding ways to have more fun in your life will bring you comfort.
Notice that your glass is half full: Your attitude can determine your level of discomfort. When you learn to appreciate what you have and the good things in life, you won’t have to reach for food to feel better.
Get some support: This may come from a friend, relative or professional. We all need support now and then. If it’s hard for you to ask for help or support, start practicing so you get good at it. That way you’ll get what you really need and won’t turn to food instead.
If you’re looking for comfort in all the wrong places, there’s plenty you can do to start turning things around.
Previously published in the Tampa Bay Times