Even though many TV and other commercials make us believe otherwise, I have learned this the hard way. That if your problem is not hunger, than food is unfortunately not the solution. And it only took me a little over 40 years to not just “know” this but also “understand” it and internalize it fully. (Comfort) Food is not the answer! Well, (Comfort) food is not the answer for me – anymore!
There is no such thing as “comfort” food. Comforting ourselves with food, when life gets real and tough, is like putting a band aid on a bullet hole. It’s not helping. It might cover the bullet hole ever so slightly, but underneath the band aid, we are still bleeding out. And I should know. I’ve done this since I was a young girl living in a less than stable home.
My parents were drunk and fighting? Thankfully, my Grandma had just the right cookie or chocolate to help get over it. I replaced the friends I did not have with chocolate bars. The bullying got really tough at school? I grabbed my bike to ride to the grocery store and invested all my allowances in all the sweet treats I could afford.
Unfortunately all the pain and feelings, that came with my childhood and from experiencing bullying, did not go away after I thoroughly enjoyed my sweets. But I definitely successfully avoided feeling them, dealing with them and owning my life. So I did not get over them by eating all the “comfort food”. I stacked them up in my psychological back pack as much, as I “stacked up” the pounds that came with my “diet”.
I have developed some great self awareness and empathy thanks to having been bullied. This is nothing I am especially proud of. Since this really happened naturally, not much work on my side went into this. However it made me very aware, that what I was doing with food was less than helpful. Because it was not good for my health and absolutely not good for preventing my psychological back pack from bursting and exploding into my face.
Even after I took ownership of my life (learn more about the how, here if you are interested), I did not turn this behavior around right away. Stress at work? Where are the snacks? Difficult decision or something sad happening? Who can blame me, that I am not able to also think about healthy food choices when the world is chaos, right? Because that would be too much work and added stress, now wouldn’t it?
So what changed? That’s a good question. Diabetes runs in my family and both my parents suffered from and my Dad also passed away from cancer. Thanks to having smoked chain their entire life. If you are young and are smoking , stop now, it might not be too late.
Obesity and serious illnesses associated with it run in my father’s side of the family. And fortunately I can talk myself into experiencing any symptom that’s out there. That’s not good, I know. What’s good is, it scared me quite a bit, that I could actually develop diabetes. I have not. But I was close enough. And so when we got our puppy and started walking a lot, I realized losing the weight would make that much easier, too.
So I knew I had to give a commitment to myself. If I would start doing weight watchers (aka WW), I would have to make this work for the rest of my life. In good times. But especially in those bad times, when I would usually default to food for comfort and blow my diet. I had to NOT do a diet, I had to change my mindset entirely. And it took a couple of months for me to be ready. And from one moment to another it clicked and I signed up. This was in May 2017. I lost 60 lb in total and with every pound I gained the confidence, that this was going to work.
Especially in those stressful times. Because I learned having planned my meals and the accountability of tracking my food gives me the feeling of being in control, that I am usually lacking in difficult situations. So I might not be able to control all difficult situations. Not by any stretch obviously – pandemic to name one of the things. But feeling in control about my health and food choices, gives me the strengths to feel the feelings instead of eating them. Win win in my books.
To unlearn, what we are trained as a child and then kept training ourselves on, is a tough thing to do. Without the control (especially portion control) of the WW program, I would not be able to do it and fall back into these habits I learned to love and hate. That’s why if you are a parent, don’t do, what they are telling you to do on TV. Don’t provide comfort with food. Provide comfort and when things are better, enjoy a meal together. Not the other way around.
Makes me so mad to watch the Mac & Cheese commercials, where the Mom is chasing her daughter to finish her broccoli and when she really does not want to, she makes her Mac & Cheese and everyone is happy. If your child does not want to finish their food, let them. They will eat when they are hungry. Replacing healthy choices with “comfort food” to make them eat? We all know better and I understand acting on it is tough, but the can of worms you are opening if you don’t is worse.
Or that other commercial where that kid does not want to finish her plate with broccoli either, and the commercials suggests to pay them for “every bite” they take with french fries. Say what? Or all the commercials where a stressful day can be relieved with some kind of food? It can’t. There is no reason to not enjoy a nice meal at the end of a busy day. It’s the “why” you are doing it, that matters.
Now, when I am having an extra stressful day, I will skip the ice cream sundae at night. Even if I have planned for it and pre-tracked it already. Because I know there is a remote chance, my brain will confuse this for me comforting myself with food. And instead, I’ll take a walk with my husband and the puppy. It’s so much better. It also helps keeping the weight off.
Don’t get me wrong, writing this down was easy. Getting here was not. Having learned to enjoy the things I can control is priceless though. Whenever I am reading about posts on WW Connect from people that “fell off the bandwagon”, because their life got busy, I feel sorry. I am sorry, that WW has not been able to give them the sense of being in control they are lacking in busy times. That having a plan and sticking with it, does not relieve the stress they are experiencing due to hard ship. Because I can honestly say, it has been and continues to be a life saver for me. Truly understanding, if hunger is not the problem, (comfort) food is not the answer.
I am using the weekends, especially now during the pandemic, to prepare meals – the lazy way. Find out what I mean by that in more detail here. I am trying to plan my week as much as possible in advance and am tracking the food I am planning to eat. Things are going great, but I am craving something else? I am always keeping things flexible enough for that. Things are crazy, stressful, sad or annoying? No problem, I have my meals planned and at least partly prepared. Pulling these out of the fridge or freezer really does not add any more stress. the opposite is the case.
So instead of having to grab “fast food” and comfort myself with it, i can fix a quick pre-planned and pre-tracked meal and comfort myself with some extra playtime with the pooch, a long walk, some swimming to move my body and relax my mind. And if I do not have the time for that, fine. I at least did not have to spend time in the kitchen and I also did not have to eat “comfort” food that will make me feel uncomfortable the moment the taste wears off my tongue and I know instead the calories will end up somewhere on my body. In my age preferably on my belly.
How I knew this would work? I was able to train myself to default to my “comfort” chocolate, whenever things got difficult. Why should I not be able to train myself to default to something else? I just have to WANT. And then keep doing it over and over again, until it becomes a habit. Had a slip up? My tip is, go back to this healthier behavior immediately, don’t turn it into a slip up day or week. The longer it takes, the more difficult it gets. And it will add to your other problems instead of helping with it.
Since I learned this, (Comfort) food is not the answer for me – anymore.