As a child my favourite meal was my mum’s roast. I’m likely not too unique in this regard. A gorgeous, big, hearty roast chicken or rack of lamb were my favs but most important were the excessive amounts of roast veg I’d devour until I felt uncomfortabely-yet-joyously-over–FULL.
In todays tucker show I’m chatting, Comfort Food: 3 Myths and How To Avoid Comfort Food Sabotage.
For those of us with an emotional attachment to food – you’ve with me on this one aren’t you? – there’s a whole lot more at play than the mere taste of that food we find most comforting. Which leads us to comfort food myth one:
Myth one: It’s all about the TASTE.
Absolutely there is a taste component. I’m not going to go mad for your grandma’s roast or the ‘Sunday roast’ at the pub or certainly not the roast at that nasty chicken take-away joint on the corner…
Firstly, they won’t taste as good or look the same. No offence to your grandma – and of course I’m biased – however it’s just not the taste and the appearance I’m used to.
That’s a component of why when my mum changed how she did her roast veg – how dare she! – it prompted many a heated roast discussion… “Katie, we do it this way now” mum would declare as she point blank refused to coat the veg in white flour prior to roasting. “But you’ve always had the flour to make them extra crispy mum!” – warning brat alert ahead… “and you asked me what I most wanted for dinner!!”
Moving on from embarrassing-brat-Kate… beyond a yummy crispy taste and texture is the fact that our favourite comfort foods remind us of past associations with food. It’s the positive memories. The people. The habits or rituals. Perhaps the feelings of being loved and cared for. Being safe and looked after. So along side my roast this could be the macaroni-cheese, the minestrone soup, the big hearty stew or the homemade lasagna?
Or conversely yet equally valid perhaps YOU are all to often the one preparing comfort food for someone else?
Maybe in this case the food you personally find most comforting is hassle free. It’s quick and easy to prepare (or grab!) and requires no clean up. So this might be the ice-cream, the chips, the chocolate or the packet of TimTams.
=> When you’re looking to Avoid Comfort Food Sabotage and you recognise it’s not just about the taste… then you get the option to choose the food that can give you these other feelings you’re seeking out without the huge dumping of excessive processed carbs and low quality fat.
Myth two: It must be UNHEALTHY.
We’ve touched on this. A food can make us feel loved or safe or appreciated – it can also be quick and hassle-free while still being nutritious and absolutely supportive of our body gain goal.
If a food is feeding your soul as well as your belly and it’s not all about the taste then why not take the time to find your own healthy comfort food examples?
Actually I’m pretty sure you’ve already got some. Or that some of your current comfort foods could fit the ‘great for your body’ label (which I vastly prefer to ‘healthy’) with just a little make over.
Actually let’s dig a little deeper with UN-healthy…
As much as the type of food unhealthy can be the quantity and the intention behind your eating. Are you calling it comfort eating when really you’re turning to food in an attempt to NUMB yourself and avoid dealing with something?
Most of us are going to resort to numbing to some degree. Whether it’s food, alcohol, drugs, exercise or even work we use as our numbing shield of choice. When we’re really thinking comfort, you get it with that first bite. In fact with each bite there is comfort rather than a mindless attempt to just consume… and just numb.
Moving back to great-for-your-body comfort foods…
=> What little switches could you make to a couple of your Go2Comfort foods so that you can enjoy them regularly, in generous (though not mindless!) quantities, guilt-free?
Myth three: You only eat comfort foods when SAD.
The examples we’ve covered already already demonstrate that our comfort food habits are often created in happy times.
Does that mean we turn to them in desperation only when we’re feeling sad?
It appears not. Although, and this research is courtesy of Brian Wansink and his fantastic book ‘Mindless Eating’ studies have shown that you are more likely to turn to unhealthy comfort foods when sad and great-for-your-body comfort foods when happy.
The solution was of course in Myth two: come up with the great-for-your-body alternatives and make them the most accessible when you’re sad.
I have a final observation on the matter of comfort eating that works really well for me. You’re welcome to borrow it if you think it might fit well for you too…
Just stepping away from food briefly. You know the idea of your comfort zone?
It can be depicted as a small circle that represents everything that is safe, familiar and comfortable for you.
Beyond that small safe circle – beyond your comfort zone – is everything else that is uncertain, unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
The commonly held thought is that outside your comfort zone = Obstacles and PAIN.
However I urge you to think rather of staying stuck inside your comfort zone… staying stuck at boring old status quo = PAIN.
Beyond your limiting little comfort zone = Opportunities.
I think I can tie this back to food (!) so here we go…
I genuinely believe staying stuck in that little circle with my comfortable, old ineffective habits – the stodgy-dodgey-refined-carb-comfort-foods I used to favour = PAIN.
Moving beyond, exploring the clean-eating-yet-still-DELICIOUS opportunties = PLEASURE.
I actually find it comforting to know that I can eat generous, indulgent quantities of something without worrying that’ll make me fat. Or leave me feeling gross and heavy and bloated and lethargic for days.
What do you think?
To get actionable today, let’s return to Myth two: comfort food must be UNHEALTHY.
I’d love to know the little switch you’re making to one of your Go2Comfort foods so that you can enjoy it regularly, in generous (though not mindless!) quantities, guilt-free?
For me, this was hot chips switches to kale crisps.
They are still crispy, greasy, salty and delicious however I can enjoy them in super generous quantities 100% guilt free.
That’s it for me today.
I’ll be beck tomorrow with the Wednesday Weigh-in show and…. The Habit You Say You Want To Start.
If you liked this you’ll also like: 7 Sneaky UNHealthy ‘Health Foods’ (and what I now eat instead)
If you’re yet to share the Healthification love – just click here to zip over to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review. It’d help me out big time. With gratitude, Kate.