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Reflections on Comfort and Eating

I’ve been thinking a lot about ways of finding comfort lately, for a very sad reason.

As you may have heard, on the evening of Wednesday, October 25, 2023, we had a mass shooting here in Maine, the first time that’s ever happened. Eighteen people were killed and thirteen wounded in Lewiston, Maine, with the shooting split between two locations. And for days after, most of us were in a state of heightened anxiety because the shooter wasn’t found until Friday night, October 27.

I feel very fortunate that no one I know was killed, particularly since the shooting happened just a few miles from where my brother’s family lives. But so many people – friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and more – were impacted, and those impacts have rippled out.

On Thursday, the day after the shooting, my Facebook feed was filled with updates about the shooting. People marking themselves safe, expressing sorrow and anger, and sharing a couple of lovely memes about the state of Maine.

One stood out to me because it was about food. It was someone posting about being home with her kids and “eating her feelings.” And I don’t think she was the only one.

When I was younger, I also often turned to food for comfort. And it’s still an option, but if you feel like that’s your only means of finding comfort, or if it’s what you always choose, that’s not great. Here are a few other things you can consider.

Getting out in nature

One of the many difficult things about the shooting was that, because the shooter wasn’t immediately caught, some people were asked to stay indoors. Even those like me who weren’t under a shelter-in-place order didn’t necessarily feel comfortable going very far.

I spent most of that Thursday indoors, but by 3:30, I felt like I needed to get outside, especially since it was an unusually nice day for late October in Maine. I didn’t even need a jacket.

I went for a short, fifteen-minute walk around my neighborhood, which isn’t exactly remote. But we do have a lot of trees, and they’re finally changing color. I still felt weighed down by the tragedy, but I found some solace and comfort in the beauty around me.

Even if you can’t go outside, you could try to watch birds from inside or watch a nature documentary or short nature clips online. For me, and I think for many, being reminded of the non-human world is a comfort.

Connect with others

In times of crisis, it helps a lot to reach out to loved ones for support and to make sure they’re okay. A lot of that was happening on Thursday. Like most Mainers, I knew people who lived in or near Lewiston, where the shooting happened. I checked in with everyone I could think of and breathed a sigh of relief when they were all okay.

But beyond that, on Friday I went for a walk with a friend, and on Saturday my book group met in person. People also set up vigils, online on Thursday and in person on Saturday. And on Sunday after the shooting, many people attended church in person, including me, which was very comforting.

I realize it’s not always possible to connect with loved ones when you need comfort. But making the attempt, or even thinking about those you care for, can help.

Watch or read an old favorite

And when other things fail, you could watch or read something that you know you’ll enjoy.

In my case, on Thursday night I did some cross stitch while watching the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. It had been a while since I’d seen it, but it fit my mood well, offering moments of laughter while also acknowledging unexpected sorrow.

Not long before that, after the initial attacks in Gaza, I had turned to a favorite book, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Austen’s humor shines in it, and it was comforting to read.

You can watch or read something new, of course, but the benefit of returning to an old favorite is knowing how things will turn out. I find that very helpful in times of so much uncertainty.

Comfort comes in many forms

We all need comfort now and again Food can provide that, but if you lean on it too much, turning to food can become problematic. That makes it a good idea to find other options.

The ones I’ve suggested are only a few possibilities. You likely have your own favorites or can think of more. And if you come up with those options ahead of time, you’ll be able to think of them more easily in those moments when you truly need comfort.


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