The Naked Truth: When food is comfort

By   6 Comments

“We eat to feel or not feel something.”

A wise friend said this to me years ago when we were talking about craving unhealthy foods.

I spend a lot of time working with my clients on listening to, trusting, and responding to what their body is asking for. This can be rather tricky, especially when it sounds like your body is asking for something you know isn’t going to serve you or your health in the bigger picture.

Let me get naked with you: my favorite comfort food is pasta. I could eat vats of the stuff, but unfortunately, my body doesn’t like it at all. It inevitably leads to – well, let’s just call it “digestive distress.” I can always tell when I’m stretching myself emotionally or mentally because I start obsessing about pasta.

Early last week I experienced a considerable amount of stress. Immediately, all I could think of was PASTA!! What to do?

I’m not a believer in deprivation, but I’m also not a believer in using food to escape yourself. I decided to sit with the feelings I had, letting them flow through me, as Geneen Roth recommends in her powerful book, Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything (which I highly recommend), rather than bury my feelings in a bowl of spaghetti. I was sitting in LA traffic at the time, so I had plenty of time to let the tears flow, beat up my steering wheel, and stare woefully out the window.

By the time I got home, I had certainly felt a lot of very uncomfortable feelings. AND, I still wanted pasta.

That night, I decided not to deprive myself of pasta, but to indulge with heightened intention and awareness. I grabbed my sweetie and we went out to a nice Italian restaurant. Rather than just look at the yum factor, I took a lot of time with the menu. I imagined how each dish would taste, how my body would feel with it in me, and I picked the item on the menu that felt perfect for the moment.

When dinner arrived, instead of gobbling through it at lightning speed (my sure-fire body escape strategy), I took small bites. I put my fork down between each mouthful, not picking it up again until I had swallowed every little morsel of the first bite. I chewed slowly and savored every delicious inch of that pasta. I took nice deep breaths between each bite, I slowly sipped a glass of wine, and I made sure throughout the whole meal that I was completely inside myself, not wanting to miss a single moment of this comforting treat.

To my utter amazement, despite the fact that I just ate a bunch of refined wheat and dairy, I had absolutely no digestive upset. I left the restaurant feeling unburdened, fresh, and completely reinvigorated by the meal. I can’t remember the last time I ate a plate of pasta feeling so light.

Moral of the story? Ultimately there’s nothing wrong with food being a source of comfort. The key is to stay in your body when you do it, rather than use the food to escape yourself.

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6 Comments

  1. Leslie

    at

    Love this piece, Margaret! There are times when I really need a bit of comfort food, despite knowing that it’s not good for my body. Thanks for the reminder about staying in the body, eating consciously, and enjoying every bite of it! Speaking of enjoyment, I ordered a small package of those raw chocolates last week – I’m expecting them tomorrow. Yum!

    • So glad it resonated with you Leslie. It’s been one I’ve wanted to write for a while. No need to punish ourselves for something we ALL do. 🙂

  2. Susan Roth

    at

    Hi Margaret! I loved the article on “comfort” food. Keeping things in perspective- nice!
    Thanks, Susan

  3. Lorraine

    at

    Really thoughtful and wise–thanks for this, Margaret! Comes at a great time too–I’m totally swamped with work, eating in gulps and gasps, hardly getting any variety and really not savouring the moments. That is NOT okay, and your thoughts are good reminder of what eating can be. (I’m enjoying some leftover pasta as I type this 😉
    Cheers,
    Lorraine

  4. Thank you for your insight and experience to help us learn to stop and think through the feelings at hand and not randomly run to our “make me feel better” foods. Joyce Meyers teaches, “think about what you’re thinking about!” It keeps us focused on what is most important and how to help ourselves through it. I love giving myself permission to indulge occasionally! Thanks for the road map to help us get there!

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