The following post was written by Amber McGuerty with Woman’s Nutrition Services Department. Summer is beginning to wind down, but it’s not time to stow away the barbecue pits just yet. You can cook almost anything on the grill and it can be a healthy way of preparing meals if done properly. According to the American […]
“There, there. Just let me bake you some cookies.” “Don’t cry. We’ll stop and get some ice cream, and it will all be better.”
Do these sound familiar? Maybe statements that you heard as a young child? They were innocent words and very genuine actions on the part of our caregivers to express love and concern to us when we were hurting. The way they knew to do this was through food – and not just any food. Usually, the foods offered were foods rich in fats and carbohydrates – the foods that we have come to term “comfort foods.” In this way, food has come to be used as a special type of medicine, as an anti-depressant of types, to cure the mood that ails us. However, such patterns can become very problematic, especially if it is a habitual pattern causing excessive weight gain.
Scientists continue to research the effect that the chemical composition of foods may have on our moods. While such research is very valuable, I want to focus on the psychology, not the biology, of comfort food.
Food and Customs
All cultures have customs around food. In my childhood, money was scarce and when there was some kind of special occasion, it meant that we would use limited resources to buy special foods. It meant that we were being treated in a special way. Birthdays meant choosing a special meal and a type of cake and ice cream (within a budget). Funerals involved having food brought to the bereaved. The funeral ritual is one of special interest to this topic. The message is quite obvious: “I hope this food makes you happier.” Again, nothing is ill-intended and the gift is given with much love and care. However, it is another reinforcement of the use of food to make us “feel better.”
We are given messages early in our lives and then reinforced throughout our lives about how food can make us feel different, to feel better. Because we equate food with happiness, we continue to turn to food for such comfort. And we do feel happy or better, albeit temporarily.
1. The key to changing this lifelong pattern of equating food with happiness is to first be aware. Take some time to reflect on how food was used through your life and its connection to emotional states for you.
2. Next, take some time to reflect on your own emotional states. You may keep a feeling journal and write down how you felt each day. In reflecting, you will be more aware of the connection of food to your feelings in the past and more aware of your feelings in the present.
3. Then, the work begins. Take each emotion connected to food and create a list of other things you may do to tend to that emotion. For instance, you may have “sadness” as one emotion that has been connected to eating. Alternative ways to get comfort when sad may be:
- Talk to a friend
- Journal your feelings
- Listen to music
- Write a song or a poem
4. By creating alternatives, you begin to see how you can break the cycle of comfort eating.
5. Post this list of alternatives in a place that you are likely to see it regularly. Consult it. Add to it as needed. Or mark things off that you have tried that maybe didn’t work.
About the Author:
Kimberly Gorman, PhD, HSPP, is a licensed psychologist and works with pre-op and post-op patients. She has been specializing in the area of eating disorders and body image for the past 12 years. She likes to emphasize the importance of empowerment in the change process and works hard to help patients gain this sense of control in their lives.
In the last few years, weight-loss surgery has become more common, and the number of women in their childbearing years having this surgery is rising. Which leads to the question is it possible (and safe) to get pregnant after having bariatric surgery.
Woman’s bariatric surgeon Dr. Drake Bellanger many women can successfully have a safe pregnancy after having the surgery as long as proper nutrition and vitamin in-take is followed. In fact, research suggests that pregnancy after weight-loss surgery might be safer for both mother and baby than pregnancy complicated by obesity.
In the following video, Dr. Bellanger goes into greater depth about pregnancy and weight loss surgery. For more on weight loss surgery or if you have any more questions concerning surgery and pregnancy, visit womans.org.
The following post is written by Paula Meeks, registered dietitian with Woman’s Hospital. In addition to a change in taste, a lot of patients going through cancer treatment also experience a change in their sense of smell. Because smell is a large factor with how appetizing certain foods can be, this change largely affects patients’ appetite […]