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By Kimberly Robyn

December 26, 2019

F#@d Has Nothing To Do With It!

Till recently, I’d been unaware that I’ve personally been using food to calm, avoid, destress, zone out and eat as a type of crazy security blanket to get through my daily living and my chronic pain.

In 2003 Health Canada released “Canadian Guidelines for Body Weight Classification in Adults” this is an update of the weight classification system that had been in use in our Country since 1988. According to the updated version, I’m over the norm. In reality, though, due to the amount I’ve been consuming since returning to College in 2016. I should weigh about five hundred pounds, and thankfully I do not.

📷However, surprisingly, and while not batting an eye, I’d been snacking and munching down on anything convenient. Yes, my student lifestyle, along with the “no cooking necessary” foods chosen, it’s unfathomable how often I’ve used food as a crutch in my daily life.

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I should have clued in sooner. Even not realizing sooner makes me shake my head, mainly because my worst fear in life is; “trying not to look ignorant.” Nevertheless, starting today, moving forward, ‘comfort food’ & ’emotional eating’ will not be a part of my positive new outlook future.

I’m a big believer in trying to understand why things happen? Honestly, I want insight on why food is so often used to console? Does it provide a form of “self-comfort?” With researching documented literature, I discovered that “Comfort Foods” tend to be used when someone is under emotional turmoil or stress, negative moreover than positive emotions and the food choices are high in calories and fat. Really?

Researching further, I thought I would be overwhelmed by the amount of information available on this very subject. Still, there’s nowhere near as much recent documented research as I had hoped. First, over the years, there have been studies, but no findings solve the why issue that I expected to get answered.

One of the formal study abstracts found on sciencedirect.com has listed the concept of comfort food as being varied and one that envelops many different aspects that are difficult to define. On that note, a March 2019 Study entitled, “Towards a Situational Taxonomy of Comfort Foods: A Retrospective Analysis.” They used a web-based survey of 322 lay people that proposed a conditional scheme that may offer new viewpoints and current definitions for comfort foods. On the foundation of this study analyses, I found that this study proposes, as the title begins; A “Situational” meaning the situation or circumstances related to the consuming of Comfort Food that still includes eight (8) scenarios involving either positive or negative emotions. The situations include; celebration, reward, illness, remembrance, stress, lonely, break-up, and culture.

Again, this does not answer the why question.

Now, in a decade-old research study from a Southeastern State University entitled; “Comfort Foods: An Exploratory Journey Into The Social and Emotional Significance of Food.” This work looks at using representational intermingling and physical perspectives to research the social construction of different comfort foods. This paper features how the cultural studies of food should make allowance for its social and physiological components. There is a cost to download this first-hand research, but let me explain the results;

Different comfort foods fed to a class of two hundred and sixty-four (264) undergraduate students, which illustrated how certain foods become linked with the relief of hardships and confirm how foods can transform emotional states or feelings.

The analysis I find of interest is “the practical implications of this report expands the starring title role (Comfort Food) shows moods play a considerable part in the food choices.” These findings extend to the use of “comfort foods” under specific situations.”

Wow, does this sound familiar? Yes, but what’s important here is the breaking “Comfort Food” into four specific categories;

Nostalgic foods; the most popular kind of comfort food; An example offers a homesick or sentimental value to someone and usually has a high caloric level.

My personal example, Christmas time, when I turn to Nanaimo treat bars or shortbread; even just the taste brings back memories of times shared with my grandmother.

Indulgence foods (2 Types); First is the alternative of ready-made foods that reflects a desire for heavy meals. Some Males tend to be in this category because they are inclined to indulge in the eating of massive, hot meals (meat potato, etc.) that usually includes one or two desserts.

Secondly, indulgence foods also include foods that are forbidden or considered off-limits. This secret indulging provides personal relief because they place a person’s emotional desires at the very core center of oneself, despite the “bad for you” foods chosen.

Convenience Comfort Food; Mostly eaten because they are convenient. Handy treats, many ready-mades, snack foods, pop, ice cream, chocolate etc.

Convenience foods found in almost every aisle in a grocery store and at the end of hallways in hotel/motels. The downside of handy food, there is not much in the way of healthy choices. Mostly eaten because they are convenient, handy treats, many ready-mades, snack foods, pop, ice cream and chocolate etc.

Physical Comfort foods; are a type of comfort food that works a couple of different ways and in different parts of the world — the kind of food chosen when persons are stressed or anxious while attending different special occasions.

These foodstuffs are considered a product of where you come from, where your parents come from, as our palates become more worldwide. They even consist of far-away places, and this may also include where your friends might come from too.

We need to recognize whether we are eating for comfort or just eating for eating sake, perhaps out of boredom, or to swallow emotions? If any of these are the reason, then healthy changes are needed. I decided to start by acknowledging my emotional eating. The next step, making a list of goals and significantly squash the constant using of food to calm my emotions. Go ahead and ask yourself if even one of these signs has a “yes” answer. Then sadly, I’m not alone.

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Closing the 2019 year, it’s cliché to say begin in January One, but let’s start today. Here are some first-step suggestions which may help get us on our way to improved habits without turning to junk food. It’s imperative to choose other outlets for our emotions then turning and walking into the kitchen, opening the refrigerator or using a stool to get up in the cupboard where we all know the Grandma keeps the cookies.

Strategies?

1. Get yourself a notebook, write your feelings about the personal growth that you want to achieve.

📷It’s well known that once you write down your thoughts, they become more real in your mind. With journaling, you are more likely to achieve those potential but important changes. Although this only works if you believe in what you are doing and want to accomplish change.

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2. Using your notebook, write no more than five goals; If you need help, consider using ‘SMART GOALS’ format for assistance. You will find a pdf link to Smart Goals Worksheet in the reference section. Make your list of goals/strategies that you feel will help improve both, your mental and physical wellbeing.

Take your time and think about switching your actions from food to other relaxing activities. Here are suggestions; If you think of others please add them to the comment section.

Choose calming activities;

  • Think about dressing warm and going for a walk. Walk for about 20-30 minutes; if you are still feeling hungry, then it may be time to replenish with a meal.

  • I am also one who believes in self-talk. If you’re feeling down on yourself, look in your mirror and smile at yourself. We want to change negative thoughts to positive ones, always.

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Self Talk

  • Give your hair some new colour. For myself, pink is my go-to colour, but I have switched it up. Hair color works for all ages and all sexes.

  • There are great hobbies to help keep your hands busy. Think about these Adult coloring, needlepoint, model building, and wood carving. These activities will calm emotional eating and, at the same time, keep your mind focused on what you’re doing. Keeping busy is an excellent antidote.

3. Although we’re starting a couple of days before January one, when writing your list of different approaches in soothing, yourself, consider adding an allotted time frame. Consider a due date for each strategy that you’ve put down on paper. With having individual due-dates; This allows you not to get stressed out and become overwhelmed with everything, especially if all activities end on the same day.

“Sometimes, the smallest step in the right direction

ends up being the biggest step of your life.

Tip-toe if you must but go ahead

and take that first step.”

Ann Roth

4. Now, I’m thinking for personal investigative measures, putting a blank notebook (not the goal notebook) in my kitchen, may help give some individual insight. Yes, notebook next to refrigerator (Completed – let the food/emotional intake begin)

📷Example: Starting today, every time I head to the kitchen for a snack (including regular mealtimes), I’ll start with the date, time and ask myself: what feelings I’m having and what am I thinking at that exact moment? Then, instantly write it down before taking away any food. Especially the late-night eating!

Putting an end date for the above food journaling experiment of emotions is essential. So, I decided the end-date will be March 23rd, 2020. This time-frame should contain a sufficient amount of data to lead to some conclusions and further help me, stop, rethink and identify why this unhealthy habit has become such a presence in my life?

Finally, my main question , does comfort food comfort? Well, I’m not sure about that. However, if you think it does, I would offer — try to line yourself up with some healthy choices, with fewer calories and less fat content may just work wonders on your wellbeing. Best of luck to you in 2020!

Kimberly 🙂

References

  1. Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Canadian guidelines for body weight classification in adults. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2003. Available: www.hc-sc.gc.c

  2. (PDF) Health Canada’s new guidelines for body weight classification in adults: Challenges and concerns. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8168986_Health_Canada’s_new_guidelines_for_body_weight_classification_in_adults_Challenges_and_concerns [accessed Dec 5, 2019].

  3. https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/nutrition/cg_quick_ref-ldc_rapide_ref-eng.pdf

  4. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/food/the-plate/2015/10/26/comfort-food-nostalgia-in-a-bowl/

  5. 10 Ways to Calm Down and Prevent Emotional Eating

  6. “Nation Turning to Comfort Food.” Associated Press (November 7, 2001). Available from; http://www.msnbc.com/news/653684.asp [Google Scholar]

  7. I Keep Eating gif https://www.quotemaster.org/emotional+eating#&gid=1&pid=8

  8. Nestle, M., Wing, R., Birch, L., DiSogra, L., Drewnowski, A., Middleton, S., Sigman-Grant, M., Sobal, J., Winston, M. and Economos, C. 1988. “Behavioral and Social Influences on Food Choice”. Nutrition Reviews, 56: S50–S74. [Google Scholar]

  9. Wansink, B. and Sangerman, C. 2000. “The Taste of Comfort: Food for Thought on How Americans Eat to Feel Better”. American Demographics, 22(7): 66–67. [Google Scholar]

  10. Smart Goals Clipart Photo https://www.clipart.email/clipart/smartgoals-clipart-73243.html

  11. Wunsch, K. 1999. “Food and Memory.”. Saveur, 37: 39–40. [Google Scholar]

  12. Meagan T. Soffin, W. Robert Batsell. (2019) Towards a situational taxonomy of comfort foods: A retrospective analysis. Appetite 137, pages 152-162.

  13. Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up …. https://tinybuddha.com/wisdom-quotes/sometimes-smallest-step-right-direction-ends-biggest-step-life-tiptoe-must-take-step/

  14. Signs You May Be Emotional Eating – Kimberly Robyn http://kimberlyi75.com

  15. Smart Goals Worksheet (pdf format) Download here: https://www.mcckc.edu/counseling/goal-setting/docs/SMARTGoalWorksheet.pdf

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