Eating for comfort
We learn it from a young age. How good it can feel to eat. And as a nutritional medicine practitioner I’m often asked, “Is it humanly possible to eat healthy nutritionally dense food when wanting to eat for pain relief?
The short answer to this is, of course it is.
When snacking because you are feeling low, bored, stressed or sad, you have the choice to turn to foods that will nurture you rather than cause added stress. It’s just knowing what to choose. Avocado dip and vegetables, or hummus and gluten free crackers, or fruit, or nuts and nut butters, or another green smoothie. Easy. Nutritionally these foods will feed your brain and feed your emotions. But most of you will sit there and say, sure Kath, as if those foods will make me feel good. Where’s the chocolate, the potato chips, ice-cream, cakes and donuts.
The truth about these ‘comfort foods’ is they make you feel better for a short time by giving your brain a quick sugar fix, but ultimately they will lead to you feeling worse and craving more. And, if you do succumb, you have the added stress of weight gain and feeling even worse and so the viscous cycle goes on.
So let’s look at the emotions of it.
As Curly often points out it’s called self-sabotage. And it works like this. When we begin to feel good along comes a rise in a hormone called dopamine and this rise drives us to risky behaviour. It is a normal human response.
Risky behaviour, most of us think that is driving a car too fast, or skiing down a slope we are not prepared for, or buying something we can’t afford. Think about what your risky behaviour is now, and make a note. Very few people think that
risky behaviour can be associated with food choices but I would like to suggest that it is. Most of us know what is good for us and what is not. What we should and should not be eating. The refined carbohydrates of chocolate, potato chips, ice-cream, cakes and donuts live amongst risky behaviour. They will ultimately lead to disease, illness, inflammation, degradation of joints and the list can go on and on. Yes your risky food choices will not serve you or your body well. It’s an interesting concept.
The old adage, a moment on the lips leads to a lifetime on your hips, is exactly true. But really it should be a moment of oral entertainment, can lead to a lifetime of disease and destruction. Wow, how dramatic is that little statement. But this is what I see every day in practice. People over indulging because they are happy and people over indulging because they are sad. We are what we eat, and this is only too apparent when it comes to disease processes. Most diseases can be linked these days to lifestyle excess.
So what then should we do? How do we prevent the risky behaviour?
Well as a really good friend of mine told me one day you need to keep your eye on the PRIZE and to do that you need to employ the following steps:
(1) Choose your PRIZE.
(2) State why this prize is important to you.
(3) State how this prize will make you feel when it is achieved.
Basically we all know this a form of goals setting. So let’s do it now, set your health goals. Set your Prize and make a list of all the challenges you are going to find along the way.
I had a little experience of this last Sunday, when we I had a family dinner to attend. My Prize has been to do a detox before Christmas, no alcohol, except for my staff Christmas dinner and my 30th wedding anniversary. Eat well no junk, refined carbohydrates or sugar. In the past my experience of family dinners has not always been wonderful so to help the night go better and to cope with any back-handed digs, I have always had a drink or two. Now what to do? As I drive closer to the event my mind flipped and flopped between having one or two drinks or drinking water.
If I had longer, I would tell you all about how my mind made up all sorts of excuses, argued the pros and cons with me, admonished me for even contemplating taking my eye off the prize and so it went. Anyway to cut this long story short, I decided that it really was not worth the self-sabotage to have a drink. I would ultimately regret doing it, and the detox would have been disappointing. So I held strong to what I am doing and the feeling of empowerment and belief was wonderful. I did not do this because I am a nutritional medicine practitioner with heaps of knowledge, I did this because I wanted to be better than I thought I could be and I wanted to keep my eye on the prize. The risky behaviour just was not worth it.
So I ask you, what are you prepared to do so you can keep your eye on the prize and be better than you ever thought you could be. Nutrition and good eating is not rocket science, you know what to do and what to eat, so will you do it???
One last thing, the really good news is, that the stronger you are maintaining your health goals the more your body will reward you with wonderful results, and the easier the journey gets because that is all your body will desire, healthy choices.
Eat it, Live it, Love it.