What makes comfort food comforting? Because after I eat it I usually feel awful. Yes, I feel comforted in a warm food coma for about 5 minutes but then the guilt sets in. I find myself regretful…and thinking of salad.
What makes us choose comfort food to begin with? What makes it so comforting? Is it the food of my childhood? Is it that I didn’t have to make it? It is part of a habit I’ve always had? Is food nestled into my brain as The Thing I need when I want comfort? Is it physically filling when what I’m really looking for is emotional fulfillment? Is it that nothing else can compare to the sensory experience of food when we are simply looking for comfort? Is it something deeper? Or have I overcomplicated it?
I’ve been thinking a lot about food choices in the face of health, indulgence, guilt, and necessity. If there were no consequences I know I would eat garbage all day. How are those consequences strong enough to keep my impulses at bay?
In my endless quest for life balance I’ve also been contemplating food balance. For me I usually eat so cleanly during the work week but the weekends become an ugly free for all. What about the weekend allows me to rationalize unhinging my jaw on Friday, eating all the things, and then snapping out of it on Sunday? Routine, convenience, social gatherings, control.
Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, suggested in a recent blog to “find comfort food for your mind.” It’s an interesting metaphor for dealing with emotional fulfillment. Isn’t that what we’re seeking to fill with with food? Rubin also talks about how giving yourself a treat is actually a happiness myth, as I have been suspecting myself lately. So, really, is comfort food just an exercise in emotional eating? Is that healthy? Is it productive or destructive? These are the things I contemplate when I know that my health has suffered from the result of finding the comfort in comfort food.