WHY WE COMFORT EAT & HOW TO STOP IT.
The diet industry is worth billions, and yet many of us find it difficult to stick to a diet and end up returning to previous habits of seeking comfort food, but why does this happen and how can we address it in the long term?
Food is both necessary, and a pleasure. It feeds both our body and our mind.
But for many people, food is a dominant part of their day, and a source of comfort. What to eat, when, and how long till the next meal or snack.
Sometimes our body tells us we are hungry, and sometimes our brain does.
In the western world, where food is so prevalent, we seem to have grown fearful of feeling hungry. If we feel just a little bit hungry, we find something to eat to satisfy that feeling and make it go away.
However, hunger is not the enemy. There is nothing wrong with sometimes feeling hungry. You will not collapse, you will not disappear, and you will not starve. HUNGER IS A SENSATION NOT A DISEASE!
Many people also mistake thirst for hunger. Next time you start to feel hungry, have a glass of water, cup of tea, or grab a coffee, and then see if you still feel hungry.
If you have eaten a decent meal (be it breakfast, lunch of tea) your body is unlikely to need refuelling (which is what eating does, it gives your body fuel which it can convert into energy) for about 4 hours. If you have sat down to hearty Sunday roast or 3 course meal your body is unlikely to require more food for up to 6 hours!
So before you grab another snack or have an early lunch or second breakfast think:
‘Am I thirsty, is this an emotion, or am I truly hungry?
I’ve simplified this as TIC TOC
T.I.C – Time (Is there a pattern to feeling hungry at this time of day) / Interest (Are you interested in the task your are doing – work, TV, chores) / Craving (Are you craving a particular type of food – Chocolate, crisps, sweets versus a balanced meal)
T.O.C – Count (the hours since your last meal) / Okay (remember its okay to feel hungry) / Thirst (grab a drink before you eat).
How to tell if your emotions are in control:
If you are emotionally eating (comfort eating) then you will crave specific foods, generally high fat or high sugar foods, because these will release chemicals in your body that will temporarily make you ‘feel’ better. However they will also give you a ‘low’ as the fat / sugar levels drop.
You will feel the hunger in your mouth, and in your mind, not your stomach.
There will be a feeling associated with the hunger; perhaps sadness, boredom, low mood, and food will seem like the answer to lift your mood and make you feel better.
However, due to the type of food desired (sugary / fatty foods), it is unlikely that these ‘meals’ will leave you feeling better about yourself, and your body in the long term.
Here is a check list to help you.
|Emotional hunger vs. Physical hunger|
|Emotional hunger comes on suddenly.||Physical hunger comes on gradually.|
|Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly.||Physical hunger can wait.|
|Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods.||Physical hunger is open to options–lots of things sound good.|
|Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied with a full stomach.||Physical hunger stops when you’re full.|
|Emotional eating triggers feelings of guilt, powerlessness, and shame.||Eating to satisfy physical hunger doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself.|
Time of day: This is the final piece of the puzzle. There have been many studies into how time of day affects our eating patterns and desires. Studies have shown that between 3:30 – 4:30pm we are most likely to crave ‘comfort’ food. More specifically 4:12pm is the most likely time for a person to give up on a diet.
Look for patterns in how you feel at different times of the day. Recognise your ‘comfort’ time and plan activities to keep your brain busy and occupied during these times, or have a healthy snack to hand to satisfy your desire to eat at this time.
If you would like more specific advice on how your mind is affecting your eating patterns, or if you would like a tailor-made nutritional plan for body and mind then get in touch.
Wishing you a happy and confident day.