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  • Writer's pictureJane Webber Nutrition

Are you a "comfort" food eater?

Why do we reach for comfort foods?

They are often energy dense, high in fat and full of sugar!

Think of the chips on a Saturday night after coming home from the pub.

The chocolate bar you eat when you are feeling low.

What about the glass (or bottle) of wine after a long week at work?

So, what makes us reach for these foods rather than munching away on fruit?

We want to feel good!

Eating foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt activates the brain and its reward system.

Chocolate has a big effect on our mood, increasing our feelings of pleasure and helping to reduce tension.

Palatable foods also activate the brain regions of reward and pleasure that are the same as drug addiction.

Coping mechanism.

There is a connection between negative emotions and unhealthy processed foods.

When we are in bad or low mood we are drawn to unhealthy foods as a way of coping.

When we are in a positive frame of mind, we tend to chose healthy foods (Gardner et al., 2014)

Although comfort foods do provide some relief, you may feel more depressed afterwards and then it increases your negative mood. This maybe due to guilt or the crash that happens after a high content carb meal.

Comfort and security

We often associate foods with memories, our family, social events, etc.

When we feel lonely, depressed or in distress, we crave these foods to give us comfort and security.

Someone being away from home for the 1st time, may reach for foods that they associate with home.

Nostalgic eating

There is a link between scents and emotional memories. Our learning history and memories directs us to enjoy foods associated with good memories and even bad memories.

The smell improves our mood and produces feelings of having a social connection. For example, Candyfloss at the fairground, roast dinner at your grannies!

Special events

We don’t always make the best choices at special occasions, such as birthdays, weddings, Christmas day etc. Even going on holiday means our moods being high can affect what we eat.

Balancing what we eat is important and we shouldn’t feel guilty at eating Wedding cake or having the extra mince pie at Christmas.

Is there anything we can do?

First of all, don’t feel guilty. It is a natural way of our brain helping us to cope, bring us pleasure or comfort.

If you have a healthy balanced diet, then reach on occasions for comfort food isn’t going to make a massive difference.

However, if you find yourself always reaching for high fat, sugar or salt products that looking at ways to divert your attention away from these foods to activities that don’t require you to eat these foods.

I often work with clients who tend to reach for processed foods and we look at coping mechanisms that don’t include eating these foods.

I work on having a balanced diet that doesn’t exclude foods groups and works on an 80/20 rule.

If you have any questions or want to book your free discovery call with me, then please get in touch.

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