Someone asked me this evening “So, what do you do when you want comfort food?” It kind of took me off guard because I really had to stop and think about it. What do I do when I want comfort food? Do I want comfort food? What do I consider comfort food?
I wrote a blog post after Halloween about things I find helpful to get through cravings. Though I’m not sure wanting comfort food and having a craving for something are one and the same for me. Sometimes I get a craving for tortilla chips because I genuinely need more salt, which I can get in other ways besides chips. In a way cravings can be clues as to what my body is in need of at the time. I think, at least to me, a craving can often be different than wanting say Tuna Noodle casserole because you have fond memories of eating it in your grandmother’s kitchen surrounded by people who love and care for you. Is it the casserole you really want or does it perhaps have more to do with the feelings of love and safety you felt in the situation? Do you want nourishment? Does your body need fuel for the task of living and working or are you in need of comfort, two different things. Not that your food can’t be tasty. By all means! Food is awesome! I love food and I love to eat a lot of it! We can get in trouble however when we need one thing and consistently give our body something different.
Going through this challenge has adjusted my thinking about food from “comfort that I need” to “fuel that I require.” One of the benefits of focusing on lots and lots of fresh, simple foods though is my taste buds have changed. Everything tastes awesome when all the preservatives, hydrogenated fats and fake seasonings are not dumbing down your flavor receptors.
And when you no longer give yourself permission to rely on food as a source of emotional comfort you can learn a few things about yourself you might not have known, or been willing to admit, before. It can be a powerful step in your journey if you allow it to be.
I am a sensitive extrovert. Basically, I love to be social and I can be energized by being around others and raising a raucous but I can also get really overwhelmed with life and need quiet and solitude (or at least just my hubby and I) to recharge and refuel. I’m a contradiction unto myself and sometimes I’m not even sure what I need. Lol There are several things I’ve pinned down as very helpful though, for me, when I’m feeling like a worn out shoe string. Here are a few.
I have a high need for touch, doesn’t have to be sexual, although that’s always nice. I love a great massage and if you can afford it regularly then I’m extremely jealous, but the touch I need doesn’t have to be that intense either. When I watch a movie with my hubby I usually end up sitting on the floor in front of the couch so he can just lightly rub my shoulders and back, neck and head. It’s not deep. It doesn’t make his thumbs hurt, but it is so incredibly therapeutic for me and I appreciate it so very much. I’ve learned to ask for it if I’m feeling touch hungry and it can make a big difference.
I cannot stand being cold. It physically hurts my body. Cold air makes all my muscles tighten up and draw inward. I don’t even like the ceiling fan on in the winter to circulate the warm air. I cannot relax if I’m even the slightest bit cold. Epsom salt baths are my friends. I take 3-4 of them a week during the winter.
I tweaked my right knee on Sunday doing some split squats and had to take a couple days off from lifting. By the end of the second day I was starting to feel low and discouraged because I enjoy being active and with less than 3 weeks left of the challenge I want to finish strong. After pouting for a little while I decided a flex comparison picture was just what I needed to remind me of how far I have come. Focusing on our successes helps to put current discomforts into perspective. “Look at all the hard work I’ve done. You can literally see the evidence. Even if this knee slows me down for a few days it’ll be ok. I can keep focusing on eating great and working my upper body till I’m back to 100% again.” It totally worked.
Here are some other things I turn to when I need comfort;
Getting something done that’s been hanging over my head (I’m a list maker and I LOVE checking things off my lists.)
A one on one visit with a good friend.
Cleaning (yes sometimes cleaning can be comforting because it’s something I con control when other things are feeling out of control).
Dancing (I never feel as free and as much like myself as when I’m dancing).
Playing the piano.
Decorating (I’ve been having a great time decorating for Christmas this year. It brings me joy and joy is a comforting feeling).
Crying (Sometimes allowing myself to let it all out is just what I need).
Sleeping (A little extra sleep can do wonders for the weary soul).
You get the idea. There’s nothing wrong with eating if we’re truly hungry or having an indulgence on a special occasion. We just want to break the mindless habit of using food to mask an emotional need that would be better met with the non-food comforts we really and truly would benefit from. Maybe next time instead of thinking “I need some comfort food.” You can take a step back for just moment and ask yourself “Maybe I just need some comfort?”
Stephanie Neher is a Tennessee belle living in Minne-SOH-ta with her very own Paul Bunyan. She homeschools their 2 little blue oxen and keeps her figure red-flannel-ready through Zumba, lifting heavy pieces of iron and anything else physical that strikes her fitness fancy.