Food as Comfort
March 20th, 2014
I just woke up from a short, very much needed nap and felt an overwhelming lure to eat. Quite zombiesque, I went to the kitchen and began shoveling some assortment of fruit into my mouth. A box of raspberries, a carton of blueberries, blackberries, and a handful of grapes- non-organic… ballsy, I know.
It was temporary comfort and I acknowledged quite quickly what was happening. I had still been physically full from a big lunch I had had an hour before and it was clear to me that this yearning or hunger was coming from a different place. I acknowledged it and did my best to be present in the binge. I knew that when I was eating and I wasn’t hungry, I was actually eating to fill some void. To find some comfort for something within me.
And just a note- my binges didn’t always look like the example listed above. They used to involve $45 at the Taco Bell drive thru, 5 spoonfuls of raw cookie dough, bags of Funyons, Munchies Mix, and Flavor Blasted Goldfish, a full Hawaiian pizza, Heath bars and Peanut M&M’s- and much more. The memory is so clear. I’ve shifted the foods I keep around to be much healthier after educating myself on all the chemicals, hormones, and additives in most of our foods today. So, though the food types may have changed, the emotional connection is exactly the same.
I continued… eating a Chocolate Coconut Lara Bar followed by a Fuji Apple with probably 3 servings of Raw Almond butter sprinkled in cinnamon. Upon the last bite of that apple I was physically stuffed, slightly uncomfortable, and now on top of the discomfort I had felt that originally led me to food- I had added the feeling of guilt.
The biggest challenge that I’ve been facing lately is deciphering between my hunger for sustenance- the physical growls and pangs of an empty stomach and a body that needs (healthy) fueling- and that of my hunger for something more. I’ve used food as comfort for as long as I can remember and I’m very aware that at the core of finding my way to a super healthy relationship with food, is the ability to recognize the difference between these two hungers- and to act accordingly. When the hunger is not physical, the answer is not food. Healthy or otherwise.
On this particular day, I am very tired. I have been quite consciously focusing on getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night lately, but I’d made an exception. Last night something really magical happened to me. I sat down and started writing in this journal after years of only writing directly on my computer (technically typing). I’d always wanted to start journaling again like I often did in the single digit years of my life, but it always just seemed unproductive and like work.
I’m not sure what it was that made me take an actual pen to paper, but from the second I started writing I felt a rush of pure passion come over me and the next thing I knew, it was four hours and almost half a journal later of my thoughts and feelings and ideas before my eyes. I couldn’t stop writing and I got completely lost in the words. For the first time since childhood I felt like I was able to directly stream words from my heart to the paper without the process of overthinking that comes with the usual pitstop in my head- the writing for an audience and critical self observations. Time just completely stood still and I felt like I had rediscovered this passion that I had known all along was within me. The next thing I knew, it was 5AM and my eyes were burning but my soul was in one of the calmest most serene states I had felt in ages. As if I’d just emptied layers of emotions I’d numbed over time.
Which brings me back to the point that I am VERY tired today and rather than listening to what my body really needed- sleep, I turned to food instead. But when I use food in this way, I am in reality just covering up the problem instead of solving it. Much like many prescription drugs do today, I was treating the symptoms rather than the cause. Food is a drug. It’s real yo. Except we can’t quit cold turkey. Mmm, Turkey.
But then something clicked and I paused in my place. It’s ok to not be perfect all the time. To seek comfort in something outside of us. The best thing we can do is pause for a second, be completely present, and show compassion towards ourselves. Shift the thinking from being guilty, “cheating”, or lacking willpower to making the conscious choice that though you may know that what you’re doing is not the answer, it is what you need at this time. And when you pause to accept that you are eating to comfort and you are consciously choosing to do so, then you’ll find that the “craze” and feeling of powerlessness diminishes even faster. You’ll quickly gain back control and you can then stop when you’ve had enough. It is important in that very moment to be kinder than usual to yourself, and then move forward having learned something from the experience, and with a new sense of power and ability to cope when you’re forced with it again.