Using Food as Comfort

Ever wonder why food can feel like the ultimate comfort?

It’s like nothing takes the edge off of a long, stressful day like (*insert your fave comfort food here*).

And sure, eating a cookie dough ice cream with abandon can certainly take the edge off... But, does eating in response to your emotions make you feel truly comforted?

Think 20, 30, 60 minutes later.

→When you eat past fullness, many times straight to overly full, the comfort of the food can quickly transform into physical discomfort. And more times than not emotional discomfort.

→Eating may have occupied some space in your mind, but once you’re done, those darn thoughts and emotions pop back up.

So, why in those tough moments does food seem like it’s going to be the ticket to soothing our strongest feelings?

🔸Physiological and biochemical reactions throughout your body that make you feel good. That sugary snack (chocolate anyone?) that gives you a kick to get through the afternoon slump. The sugar raises your blood sugar and can raise the feel-good chemicals in your body.

🔸We’ve been conditioned to feel a certain way around food. Think about the advertisements we see on Facebook, Instagram and commercials that boast all the feels when you indulge in that sweet and sinful dessert. 2 feelings have been conditioned over and over in that example- joyful anticipation of the indulgence AND guilt shortly after because it’s sinfully good.

🔸We associate certain foods with comforting memories, traditions and good times. Many times these foods are hyper palatable and make us feel full- and a feeling of fullness that’s related to good times, often brings on feelings of comfort.

🔸We use food to distract us from what’s bothering us. Self explanatory, right? This often leads us down the road of beating ourselves up about our eating issues rather than dealing with underlying issues driving us to the food.

🔸Social conditioning that has reinforced the connection between food and comfort. As babies we’re comforted with food. As kids we’re given lollipops to distract us from the pain of vaccinations at doctors offices. Cookies to help us stop crying after our feelings are hurt. As adults, after a tough breakup, we turn to food to soothe our toughest emotions.

🔸Dieting. This is a biggie! When we restrict food it’s easy (and SO common) to fall into a full spiral of emotional eating and painful binges. Because one taste of the good stuff and it feels like you’ll never be allowed it again. You have to get it in now, because you’ll need to be good again tomorrow. And when stress hits, and you’re hungry, it’s easy to return to your old go-to way of comforting yourself. Food.

🔸We fall into routines and build habits- both healthy and unhealthy.

🔸We typically start out by following behaviors that were modeled to us growing up. It’s normal to pick up coping skills from the people you’re surrounded by. Think about it… growing up did you see your parents turn to food when they were stressed out? Does your partner dive headfirst into a bag of tortilla chips every time they’re feeling down? Were you taught to finish your plate no matter what as a kid?

There are lots of reasons why we turn to food to help comfort our minds and our bodies.

→Get curious about some of your personal reasons. There’s no right or wrong, or good or bad. It’s simply information that can help you strengthen your mindful eating skills and begin to heal your relationship with food.

Therapist in Horsham, PA

I'm a self-love, body image and eating disorder therapist in Horsham, PA.

I help women and teen girls to make peace with their minds, bodies and food and learn how to see, appreciate and love all that they are. 

I specialize in treating anxiety, binge eating and helping women learn how to stop dieting and really start living.

Questions? Get in touch here!