Food for me, is an extremely emotional and sensory-driven thing, how can it not be? All those familiar aromas, flavours, herbs and spices all reminding you of a specific moment in your life – good or bad.
A few years ago a friend of mine went through a pretty messy break up, and admitted that he was very much an emotional eater, who couldn’t stop himself from gorging when he got really upset or low. Fair enough I thought, we’ve all been there in some way or another – or at least I have?!
If you fall off the ’emotional wagon’ as it were, friends will often say ‘take the weekend, eat whatever you like, stuff your chops with pizza and then start fresh on Monday morning’ – but what if emotional eating didn’t have to be a binge experience? What if it didn’t have to be something to shy away from? My belief is that it can become a process for good, to soothe a battered soul. And I will explain why I think this.
MY OWN PERSONAL GUIDE TO EMOTIONAL EATING – THE GOOD WAY
If you’re feeling really crappy and you eat a tub of ice-cream, woof down a Big Mac with a side of 15 nuggets or help yourself to six slices of deep base pepperoni pizza – YOU ARE NOT A BAD PERSON BECAUSE OF IT!
The challenge comes when you decide what to do with yourself next. Do you go back for round two,three, four…or take that one calorie hit and move on? I suggest tapping your belly and saying ‘that’ll do’, knowing it’s not something you need to feel guilty about.
2. Tap into happy food memories
For me there are certain foods which instantly perk me up, and not because they’re particularly fancy or fattening, just because they take me straight back to a memory which makes me feel fuzzy inside. Such as….
- Heinz Tomato Soup (in a mug) – when I’m feeling poorly or have terrible PMT this is my go-to food. It reminds me of being off sick from school when I was little, and my mum wrapping me up under a blanket on the sofa with a mug of soup and a few slices of white bread to dip inside. Bliss
- Dad’s Spag Bol – I can’t make it like my dad does, but when I want to feel comforted I’ll rustle myself up a good Spag Bol or Chilli-Con-Carne which brings back fond memories of family meals all around the table together – and reminds me I’m not alone in this world
- Risotto – Don’t know what it is, but when its cold out and I’ve had a crappy week, taking time to slowly stir a cheesy risotto just fills me with unbridled joy. I don’t know if its the slow therapeutic mixing, the anticipation of eating a LOT of cheese or just taking time to focus my energies on something I KNOW will be good – but it works
- Fresh Tzatziki and a good Greek salad – YES I said salad! Comfort food doesn’t need to be hefty on the calories if it reminds you of good times it’ll still work…and memories of being on holiday in Greece always make me smile
It could be a good old fashioned roast chicken, marmite on toast or a toad in the hole. But next time you’re feeling crappy and you want to try an alternative to ‘anything deep fried’ – try thinking of the happy food memories you have in the bank and see if they help to lift your spirits. If not..well there’s always ice-cream, but be warned, this can only be your short term BFF…in the long term, you won’t thank yourself for having a constant supply of six tubs in the freezer.
3. Carbs boost brain serotonin – FACT
I’ve known people who’ve tried to give up carbs completely, and those people are generally the most miserable people you will meet (unless they’ve given them up for genuine health reasons such as UC or Coeliac illnesses). Fortunately my little troublesome gut doesn’t seem to have an issue with wheat or carbs at the moment (thank god), so I continue to eat them (in moderation).
Carbs are a complex beast, and I don’t proclaim to understand them or the scientific reasons why they are good for generating energy in our bodies. I just know that if I was feeling low and had little energy to get out from under the duvet, removing carbs from my world would not improve my state of mind. However, I do make certain food swaps to reduce my intake of sugar (as this isn’t good for my UC) – so this means wholegrain bread and pasta rather than white, increased vegetable carbs and nuts too – but they’re still carbs.
Hopefully if we shift our thinking away from perceiving ’emotional eating’ as a bad thing, then we can use it as a force for good. After all, its not really the stuff you’re putting in your mouth which is going to get you out of your funk – its remembering that you have good times behind you, and good times ahead.
Thanks for reading
*Let me caveat this post by stating the obvious and saying that spending months on end eating a diet which consists solely of fatty, sugary, fried foods will do you no good at all – but you already know this.