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In Need of Comfort

Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at

In last week’s Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating class, we talked some about comfort foods, since it’s been my experience that when we’re stressed, or lonely, or depressed, these are often what we want to eat. You’re probably familiar with that kind of food –usually high in fat, carbohydrates, and/or sugar. In the example that I shared with the class, about six months into my process of losing weight, I was often stressed. Work was hectic, and the fact that my dad was seriously involved with someone just a little over a year after my mom’s death was very hard for me. One day when work had been particularly difficult, I got on the bus to go home and immediately started craving chicken fingers and curly fries. That was my favorite order at the convenience store at the end of my street, which was also where the bus would drop me off. But – I knew the only reason I wanted those foods was because of the stress. I also knew that I had every right to feel that way. Not wanting to let my emotions have that much control over my eating, I managed to walk away from the store. Once home, while eating my planned supper I realized that my craving came from that fact that I was in need of comfort from something. Food was the first thing that came to mind because it was the easiest and most familiar way to address that need, but I wanted to find another option. Then it struck me. Pulling Ghostbusters off my shelf, I popped it in, sat on my couch with my cat Salem on my lap and cross stitch at hand, and settled in for an evening of laughter. The fact that I had seen the movie so many times that I could practically quote it verbatim was exactly what I needed. I wrote in my journal that it was my “comfort viewing” instead of “comfort eating”. When I shared this with my class, one of the women said, “That’s it – I sometimes want to eat because I want comfort from something.” It reminded me of a comment I heard in my health counselor training. If everyone went home to someone who enveloped them in a warm hug and asked, “How are you?”, and they really wanted to know the answer, would we have so many people with eating problems? Possibly not. Not all (or perhaps even most) of us have that, but sometimes we are all in need of comfort. Perhaps, though, we can all learn to find it in something other than food.

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