Comfort Foods Revealed

What comfort foods do you crave?  There can be a number of reasons for desiring a comfort food. First, you may simply just be hungry. The reason most food cravings occur is because a lot of people have waited too long to eat.  When you’re hungry, naturally, you think about food. You probably aren’t going to think about the foods that you don’t like; instead, you’ll most likely fantasize about your favorite foods such as a cookie or a cheeseburger!  For the average person, most don’t crave a vegetable (although cravings for veggies will come over time after adding them in consistently!).  They like them, but they don’t love them the way they do a slice of decadent cake.

Aside from being hungry, you might have an emotional reason for wanting a comfort food. Food cravings are really more psychological, then physiological. It’s usually something that someone thinks that they really want, not that their body is telling them they really need.
These emotional triggers can be anything from feeling lonely or upset to being elated. You may link certain foods with making you feel better. Foods high in carbohydrates, such as muffins, or pastries, actually can chemically lift your mood. Carbohydrates, a large component of many comfort foods, raise serotonin levels (the “happy chemicals”) producing a feel-good sensation in your brain.
Stressful situations can also cause cravings for comfort foods. If a person is feeling very stressed, they want to reach for something that they think is going to make them feel better.  So naturally, they go to those foods that they really enjoy.

A made-over comfort food of mine: Brown rice pasta tossed in
pastured organic butter, a few minced cloves of garlic, fresh
ground pepper with sea salt and a little brewer’s yeast.

The taste and texture of certain foods may have a direct link to why you’re craving them, and at certain times.  Crunchy foods create a loud noise while we chew…our mind’s way to drown out the endless stream of thoughts.  Creamy foods can be relaxing…a way to ease stress.  Salt cravings can indicate a mineral deficiency.  Sweet cravings can signify a number of different reasons such as dehydration, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, lack of energy, or simply stem from a depressed mood.  Sour cravings may signify that your digestion could use a little assistance.  Liquid cravings (of any form) is another cry for hydration. 

Obviously, the best way to stave off cravings is to not get them in the first place. Be sure to eat every 3 to 4 hours and always pack a nutritious snack in between meals just in case plans change and you’ll be off your routine or on the go. Resist the temptation to buy these foods while grocery shopping so that they’re not in your house.  Keep in mind though; restricting your favorite foods completely can make you think about them even more. Instead make them occasional foods.  Better yet, learn how to prepare those favorite comfort foods in your own kitchen, in a healthier way! 

You can also try diversions or substitutions. Diversions usually include an activity such as taking a walk, calling a friend, practicing arts and crafts, surfing the Internet or reading a book. Sometimes our emotions are behind our comfort cravings.  Emotions are energy in motion so divert that energy somewhere else other than food.  A substitution could be having fresh crunchy carrots in place of chips or making your own pudding instead of chocolate mousse. 
Understanding the common reasons for your comfort food cravings, and diverting those cravings into something other than food can help you to stay in control of your food choices along with handling your emotions and stress in a healthy way.  Try these tips before mindlessly surrendering to your next comfort food craving:
1.     Take 3 deep, slow breaths right before you eat.  Take a good look at the food in front of you.  Notice it’s color, scent, texture. 
2.     Ask yourself honestly; What am I hungry for?Will this food nourish my body, mind and soul right now?
3.     Slowly take your first bite and place your utensil down.  Chew carefully and many times, savoring all that’s happening in this one bite of food.  Take each bite this slow and with much mindfulness.
The Who / What / Where / When & WHY of Comfort Foods
Deconstruct your comfort food cravings so that you can better understand where exactly they’re stemming from.  Answer these questions honestly and think way outside of the box, incorporating every aspect of your being into the equation.  This will provide you with much awareness and with awareness, change can happen!
What are comfort foods?
Who are your comfort foods?
Where do you crave comfort foods?
When do you desire comfort foods?
Why do you crave these comfort foods?

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