Finding comfort without food

For many people, food has been used as that fix-all to life’s upsets, successes, ups and downs. Sometimes, life can be just too much and puts more demands on us than we can cope with.

It is a healthy choice to want to comfort ourselves. The problem is that food isn’t meant to be used for comfort. Food is fuel for our bodies, not a substance to provide comfort or love. While eating certain food choices may make you feel soothed for a short time, in the end you’ll probably feel worse and regret the choice of turning to food.

You already know that food won’t fix that icky feeling that makes you want to eat everything in sight, but that knowledge isn’t enough when it comes to comfort eating. Make it a practice to turn to other positive options to comfort yourself. If you don’t eat to comfort yourself, and instead turn to habits that do comfort you, the urge to eat will almost always fade away within a couple of minutes. Usually that’s the end of it, and you can go about your day without the guilt of comfort eating.

By comfort eating, what you’re trying to do is to fill yourself up to escape or cope with an emotional problem you are dealing with. There are many ways to comfort yourself that will help you to feel better, and will continue to support your physical, mental and emotional health, without turning to food.

It is important to recognize that you need some comforting, but with healthy nonfood ways. Here are a few ways to comfort yourself:

• Light a scented candle, stare at the flame and veg out.

• Rock it out—rock yourself in a rocking chair or swing on a swing-set or porch swing.

• Read a novel or a good book.

• Write your thoughts and emotions in a journal.

• Clean your house to your favorite tunes.

• Take a long walk. Get away from it all to calm yourself and put things in the proper perspective.

• Take it outside. Nature is rejuvenating. The beauty, the solitude and the peacefulness all combine to provide just what we need when we are feeling overwhelmed with life’s demands.

• Call a trusted friend or family member.

• Take a long, hot shower or bath. Hot showers or baths soothe your muscles and help your body to relax. A relaxed physical state helps you to unwind mentally. Get in the shower or bath and clear your mind, you’ll feel better afterwards.

• Turn to your pet. Researchers and medical professionals have found that there are a number of emotional and psychological benefits to pet ownership. If pets are good enough to be used in serious therapy, then they are surely a good choice when you need some comforting. Snuggle with a pet. Pets love the interaction and give you such unconditional love, which is the ultimate comfort.

• Pray or meditate.

• Watch a favorite movie or television show.

• Clean up and straighten up your space. When your space is cluttered, then often so is your mind. Cleaning up can make you feel good about your accomplishment and give you a sense of control.

• Review inspirational and motivational quotes.

• Do something with your hands—enjoy your favorite hobby, take up a new craft or do a crossword puzzle to engage your hands and mind.

• Do a series of 10 sit-ups, jumping jacks and deep stretches.

• Do yoga or deep-breathing exercises.

• Listen to music—play your favorite song 10 times in a row if you want.

• Enjoy a hot beverage of water with lemon, decaf coffee or herbal tea.

• Count your blessings. When things look bleak, you need to sit down and count your blessings. Remind yourself of all that you have to be thankful for in your life. It is easy to get tunnel vision and focus on the negative. A few minutes of intentionally focusing on the good can make you feel better instantly and put things into perspective.

Everyone has times when emotions run high, and the first instinct is to eat. To break the habit of comfort eating, recognize this pattern and break it.

Food has served many purposes in our lives. It’s been our best friend, a soother of uncomfortable situations and difficult emotions. Food has been used for things it is not meant for. Use this list as a start, and add things to it that you can do that are unique to you. As you comfort yourself with nonfood alternatives, it may take doing a few things on your list.

Comforting yourself is good for your mental and physical well-being. It gives you a chance to re-energize and regroup before you face a challenge.