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Turning to Food When Stressed

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’ve probably turned to food when you were stressed, at least once in your life. Stress, after all, is one of the primary drivers of eating when you’re not hungry.

And I’ve certainly done this. In my younger years, I most often reached for candy or other sweets in times of stress, though sometimes I’d go for chips, Doritos, or fries.

The problem was that afterward, I’d get upset with myself and feel guilty. This made me more stressed and then – you guessed it – I’d eat more. Not a good cycle.

Plus, I didn’t truly appreciate the food. Food was more like a long-suffering friend, one who also enabled me. No matter how often I abused it, and even though I never acted like I cared about the food, it was always there for me.

But these days, when I’m stressed and turn to food, it looks very different.

It’s not always about eating

Although I might still sometimes want and choose to eat when I’m stressed, most of the time I get comfort from food in different ways.

One way of doing this is with cooking and baking. After a day of brain-intensive work and sitting in front of the computer, or dealing with something emotional, I find it therapeutic and comforting to chop, or to stir things in a pot or pan. This is especially true in these cooler days of autumn when we have less daylight – the kitchen can feel like a little, bright, cozy haven.

I also embrace and appreciate all the delights food offers. The smell, the physical warmth, the colors, the satisfying crunch, the silky creaminess, and more. To me, it’s a way of honoring the food and where it comes from.

Another approach is to watch food shows. I know they might trigger some people to want to eat, but I tend to find them soothing. (Well, not some of the Gordon Ramsey ones.) I like hearing the stories about how people get into cooking, especially the ones who found it life-changing.

Other times I might look at recipes, or read about food. It’s fun and relaxing for me to consider all the possibilities of food and all the ways in which it enriches our lives.

You don’t have to give up food

I have other coping mechanisms for stress, but food still plays a big part. Now, though, since what I eat is much more varied, I don’t get into that downward spiral.

I’m glad because it would sadden me deeply to lose that connection with food. It truly has always been there for me.

And I’m happy that I can now appreciate food so much more fully and give it the focus and attention it deserves.


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