Eating for Comfort
Food offers us many benefits. It provides our bodies with fuel to perform the most basic functions like moving and breathing. Food nourishes our bodies with nutrients it needs to heal after surgeries or to rebuild after intense physical activity. It can be joyful to make food or eat with others, and it is an important part of memories. It may be celebratory–like a birthday cake or holiday cookies. Food can also function as a source of comfort when we feel sad, stressed, overwhelmed, or other emotions.
Do you love eating chicken soup for dinner because the smell reminds you of the one your mother makes at home? After sledding, do you desire a cup of hot chocolate because it feels warm and tastes delicious after being cold? We make daily choices about which foods to eat not only for nutritional content but also because of how they make us feel. It is normal and intuitive to eat food when seeking comfort. Our food choices often stem from the five senses: smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing. And sometimes, we have a certain food just because it feels good to eat at that moment. Whatever makes a food comforting for you, recognizing which sense it is fulfilling may bring you even more comfort.
Times of increased stress are inevitable in life. Be kind to your body and take care of yourself, even if that means eating foods you would not normally eat. Give yourself permission to eat food as comfort when you want or need to, because nourishing yourself with food that makes you feel safe and happy is a tremendous act of self-care. If it feels challenging thinking of food this way, that is okay, too. If you are struggling, feel that your eating is out of control, or are generally worried about your eating patterns, consider reaching out to support systems such as family, friends, or a nutrition or mental health professional. Keep in mind that your body always needs nourishment, and especially in times of stress! Take a minute to contemplate what foods you feel grateful to have right now.