Food as Comfort


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.

  • Raisa

    Hi Danika,

    I just stumbled across your blog and I’ve spent a straight up embarrassing amount of time today reading your archives instead of studying. I don’t know you, but your blog has really resonated with me – this post in particular. Most lifestyle blogs I come across don’t address deeply personal/borderline shameful issues the way yours does. Instead, they just put on this constant facade that clean eating and discipline is so easy to maintain 24/7. Thank you for being so real and so open. It’s so refreshing to read stuff by someone who faces the same emotional blocks that I do and is brave enough to share it with the world. I (along with quite a few of my friends) have been struggling on and off with “casual” EDs for the past 5 years. I have been all over the place with my body shape and my journey is nowhere near complete. Please keep doing your thing and sharing with us!

    Side note: You are freaking hilarious! I may have snorted a few times while reading through your blog. Your tone kind of reminds of this other really awesome blog: http://quicheaweek.wordpress.com/ I feel like you and Molly could be sassy/badass BFFs and takeover the city. I don’t know, maybe I could tag along on your adventures and take minutes?

    • http://www.danikabrysha.com/ Danika Brysha

      Raisa! Thank you so much for the kind words and support. I’m definitely down to be best friends so lets make this happen. Molly can come too and bring her quiches.

      I appreciate your willingness to share as well and am glad that my post and experience can have a positive effect on others. It is an ongoing journey as I’m sure you know but I truly believe there is a white hot Beyonce-esque light at the end of this tunnel. I know so many women that suffer, some on a grand scale and others quite minimally, but it seems to not leave anybody behind. Food is the one drug we can’t live without so it makes things even more challenging. I will do my best to continue sharing and please come visit and lets chat often.

      Hope you have a beautiful day!

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  • Kerry

    Hello Danika

    I too stumbled upon your blog and found myself scrolling through older posts! Very inspiring I’m so happy I found you :) today I had a similar experience to your binge episode, I woke from a nap after a long work day and began “snacking” as I call it. I couldn’t stop and the guilt kicked in. All afternoon I went back and forth in my head about what I ate why I did it what else could I eat if I should go to the gym and finally I got my butt up and got to the gym! I have never looked at guilt of eating and turning it to a choice to stop. It’s empowering and will use this way of thinking from now on! I have the power to make the right decisions for my body and I shouldn’t feel guilty, just move on and make better choices. Thank you for being such a positive beautiful woman to look up to!

    Thank you :)

    • http://www.danikabrysha.com/ Danika Brysha

      Hi Kerry,
      Thank you so much for your comment and sweet words. I know the feeling very well and it can be hard to break out of it once you make the decision to snack or binge or whatever we want to call it. The difference between us and maybe somebody else who doesn’t struggle as much with food is that we give food a lot of power… and because of that it comes with shame and guilt when it “beats” us. For me, I’ve really been working on that moment of awareness between when I decide I want to eat and when I take action on that thought. If we can stop ourselves in between and be aware of the fact that we’re eating for something outside of physical hunger, then it becomes easier to start understanding with what is causing us discomfort and we can in turn start handling the discomfort rather than numbing ourselves or treating it with the wrong medicine. It definitely takes a lot of work but just the fact that you have become aware of what’s going on is HUGE! Don’t beat yourself up over the failures, but rather reward yourself for the times you choose to deal with these moments in a positive and healthier way. Thank you for sharing your experience. It really helps to know that we’re not alone in this and I have no doubt that there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.