I think most of us can relate to this. I know when I tell people what I eat for dinner I'll jokingly respond, "well duh there's a reason I'm fat." But on a serious note, it does get upsetting when people assume that all fat people do is just sit around and eat all day. For some, it's not like that. For some, the "problem" began back when you couldn't even remember, when your mom/dad/guardian gave you something sweet to make you feel better. I know I can relate to this article...
another round from TheRotund.com
QuoteI want to have a quick conversation about comfort eating. Before I begin, it feels imperative that I issue a few disclaimers:
Comfort eating is not binge eating. Binge eating disorder is a real and serious eating disorder. It often gets characterized as comfort eating but there’s a compulsive component that is missing from everyday “I had a shitty day, pass the ice cream” tactics.
Comfort eating is not a replacement for sex, companionship, or other things that people routinely turn to for comfort; it’s just another item on the list.
Comfort eating is not about eating foods that actively make you sick (i.e., foods to which you are allergic).
Comfort eating CAN become problematic – but not because it’s eating. Comfort eating (and this is the same for any of those other coping mechanisms mentioned above and others) can become problematic when it becomes a replacement for addressing actual issues.
So, that taken care of, let’s talk about comfort eating. I had a shitty day on Friday, I’m not going to lie. I have issues with anxiety, have ever since I was the world’s most tightly wound child. I spent most of the day consumed by a feeling of nameless dread. Cthulhu and Patrick Bateman aside, that’s not really a reasonable way to exist, yo.
Friday night, because I could and because I knew it would make me feel better, I took myself (and my husband) out for sushi and sake. I had a pleasurable meal and a little bit to drink and I felt BETTER. People say we should eat mindfully – which is to say, people giving weight loss advice think you should never eat for any reason other than hunger. And, you know, I wish that’s not what “eating mindfully” actually meant – I’m all for being aware of what your body is craving, and I think it is vital that we relearn our bodies when it comes to hunger and satiety. We’ve broken those signals pretty thoroughly through the liberal application of diet culture. But when I eat mindfully, it doesn’t mean I reduce nutrition to a science. I means I am aware of my choices and why I am making them – and comfort is a valid reason.
When your stomach is full, there are a couple of physiological things that happen. One, blood rushes to your stomach to aid in digestion. Dr. Internet tells me this might even result in a mild increase in your body temperature. The sites about adults don’t say it (because mostly they seem to take a sharp left and talk about how to trick yourself into feeling full), but the sites about babies and children are pretty blatant: a full belly calms and gives a sense of well-being.
That makes a lot of sense to me. I mean, at our best, we’re still educated animals, right? And a large part of our brains is dedicated to survival. In the short term, that sense of fullness means we have a few more days at least to scrape our way along the path until we find something else to hunt (or gather) (or whatever) (this is where the metaphor breaks down).
That feeling of well-being is what we’re after when we’ve had a bad breakup and we reach for something that trips the endorphin trigger for us. Some people go for ice cream – how many times have we seen the newly dumped woman on her couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Some people (and I tend to fall into this category) just don’t eat at all and that’s a coping mechanism of a different color.
I think one reason comfort eating gets a bad rap is because it’s so often foods that people have labeled “bad” – stuff with fat and calories because that’s the stuff that makes us feel settled in our bellies. So if you’ve had a terrible day and you come home and eat some stuff that you aren’t “allowed” then, yeah, there is attendent guilt. Obviously, I think that’s a bad game to play with yourself, and I’d argue that it leads to eating MORE of the forbidden item. The attraction of the taboo and all that.
Another reason comfort eating gets a bad rap is because it is, viscerally, taking pleasure in eating food and we aren’t supposed to do that! Gluttony! Sloth! Something else that sounds real dire! There’s something decadent about eating for enjoyment versus eating for sustenance and our culture doesn’t handle decadence or hedonism real well.
There’s also the “emotional eating” label – I think that gets applied a lot to the snacking people do when they are bored. Have y’all ever heard of polyphasic sleep? It’s where, instead of sleeping for a long stretch once during the 24-hour cycle of the day, you break it up into bunches of short stretches. It doesn’t seem to work very well in the long term but one thing that all the accounts I’ve read agree on is that participants in polyphasic sleep experiments (even self-directed ones) are hungry all the damn time. That makes sense – our bodies turn to food for energy. So if you’re bored…. It makes sense. It might be worth trying something else to wake yourself back up in these situations but tehre’s also nothing morally wrong with having a snack.
Honestly, if you’ve had a shitty day and you want to eat some fried foods, that’s just as valid a coping mechanism as taking it out on a punching bag at the gym. We’re a health-obsessed nation, we are, so people will want to convince you that the gym is the more virtuous option but fuck a bunch of that. If Long John Silvers (a fried fish fast food joint, I don’t know how common they are) is going to give you the good feeling you need to live your life, then eat the damn Long John Silvers.
Overall, I’m a big fan of pleasure. I’m not a moderate person – I think that it’s very easy to get really caught up in the pursuit only of things that feel good but that this isn’t the tragedy so many people make it out to be. My idea of pleasure includes being a productive (by my own standards) member of society, and I’m a good little worker bee and law-abider; I’m not sitting here advocating for giving in to addiction, y’all. But I also think that the things that we can manage that make our lives more pleasant are good things, even if other people want to give us shit for always having dessert.
And if you weigh fifteen more pounds than you would by never ever indulging in that package of salty potato chips that makes your cramps easier to deal with? It’s not a goddamn crime. We’re not obligated to weigh as little as possible even within our individual ranges. Eat the damn chips, survive your period, and let’s move on.
Friday night, I had two sushi rolls and a bunch of sake. It was awesome. I’m not going to do that every night because a) I can’t afford it and there are lots of other things to have for dinner on nights when I’m not this close to hiding and weeping because I feel so overwhelmed by worry. And I’m not going to beat myself up it when I DO choose that option.
Comfort eating does not resolve life’s problems or issues. But it doesn’t have to. It just has to do its job: it has to help you feel better so you can resolve life’s problems or issues. Mindfully. *laugh*
Enjoy your food, y’all.