When Does Comfort Food Become A Food Craving?

When Does Comfort Food Become A Food Craving?
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.

We all have our own comfort foods. Some people like a warm stew, some people like pb and j sandwiches, some people like french fries. I went through a period of work-related stress when I hit the gummy bears pretty hard.

There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure in your food, and even something you’d consider a treat is fantastic if it gives you the energy or peace of mind that you’re looking for. Try not to be so rigid with your healthy eating plan that you can’t enjoy yourself.

When there is a problem is if the food is unhealthy or is just temporarily helping. Sometimes eating is about shutting off your brain from dealing with the actual issue. Eventually, I had to emerge from the haze of gummy-induced denial and find a better working environment.

As you start to look at and recognize the connections between what you eat and how it makes you feel, it makes it easier and easier to shift your eating decisions to healthier foods – ones that nourish and energize you, rather than drain you.

If someone put some gummy bears in front of me right now (even the really delicious fruit juice-flavored ones I was eating), I wouldn’t want any because I know they’d make me ready to fall asleep in an hour or so.

Sometimes, all it takes to get over bad cravings is to find another way to indulge in that craving. That might mean a healthier version of the food, or it might mean that what you really want is to spend time with someone, or to do something special for yourself. For me, the gummy bear issue was resolved when I quit my job – but I don’t want to imply that you need to quit your job to get over a food addiction.

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Fatty (and Salty) Foods

One of the most common cravings is fatty foods – think potato chips, french fries, onion rings – anything deep fried or cooked with lots of oil. They’re full of trans fats, which are so destructive to your health, and don’t really give you any nutrients.

They’re insanely calorie-dense, so you can eat 2000 calories pretty quickly and without filling up your stomach. The other trick is that they’re salty. Salt stimulates your appetite, so eating these foods means that your stomach is going to egg you on and encourage you to eat more of them.

If you’re trying to wean yourself off these foods, one of the best things to do is to make your own versions of them at home. That way you can make them much, much healthier.

Homemade french fries or sweet potato fries are super easy to make, and you actually need very little oil. Season them with a bit of salt and some dried herbs, and eat them with a creamy avocado dip to get some healthy fats and conquer your craving.

Sugary Foods

Another common craving is for sugary foods, like candy, cookies, chocolate or ice cream. Refined sugars deplete nutrients in your body, especially the B vitamins which are a big part of your energy levels.

Some of these foods are high in fat too, which makes them a double-whammy on your system. Not only are they really high in calories, but they also give you the sugar high and inevitable crash.

Sugar is my weakness, but luckily it most often takes the form of fruit cravings these days. Fruit is a much better form of sugar than gummy bears. I have been known to overdo it with fruit though. I was at a friend’s place recently when figs were in season, and I got myself on a major fig high. I had some pretty crazy dreams that night…

If fruit doesn’t quite do it for you, the best option is again to make your own treats at home. You can make healthy cookies at home – and it’s not actually that hard! Phil and I have recently gotten into making our own carob-late (like chocolate, but with carob instead of cocoa).

If you freeze some fruit (especially mangoes and bananas), you’d be surprised how it turns magically into ice cream when you puree it. Seriously, try it!

Get What You Need

Whatever your reasons, take a moment to think about what you really need. If food, or a certain type of food, is going to give you the results you want then go for it and really enjoy it. There’s room to indulge when you have an overall healthy diet plan.

But if you want a food out of addiction or craving or an inability to deal with the underlying problem, then try to take another approach.

This isn’t about depriving yourself – it’s about being aware enough of your body and your health to make better choices. You don’t always have to take the high road – but if you start taking it sometimes, I think you’ll find that you want to take it more often.

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