Is comfort eating during the pandemic really making you more comfortable?

Although many people are suffering with health issues or financial issues during the pandemic, if we think about where we are in the present moment in time…most of us are safe at home.  For many of us, our eating patterns during the pandemic may be causing us more negative emotions than the Coronavirus itself.

Have our eating patterns changed?

Since the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are buying less healthy foods and more snack foods.  Potato chips and pretzel sales are up more than 30% from last year.  Results from a survey from University of Tennessee show that people are eating more and are less physically active since the Coronavirus pandemic.

Most of this change in eating pattern is related to “comfort eating.”  Comfort eating is when we have negative thoughts and emotions (such as stress, boredom, or fear) and we reach to food (usually unhealthy) to soothe ourselves.

Isn’t it OK to soothe ourselves with food?

Of course, we are all free to soothe ourselves with food.  When we eat to soothe ourselves, we feel momentary pleasure…that is why we use food to soothe ourselves…because it works!  However, if you bring some awareness to comfort eating, you will notice that the pleasure of comfort eating usually only lasts a few minutes before negative thoughts and emotions set back in.  When negative thoughts and emotions return, we often reach back to food for more momentary pleasure.   Comfort eating can become a vicious cycle of eating to soothe negative thoughts and emotions.

The first step in decreasing comfort eating is to realize that it is causing us more pain than pleasure.

Stay aware and present today when you reach for an unhealthy snack.  Notice your thoughts and emotions in the moment.  Was there a thought or emotion that triggered you to want to eat the snack?  What unhelpful thoughts are rationalizing eating that snack?

When you eat the unhealthy snack, then stay present and notice the pleasure that you feel.  How long does your pleasure last?  Then notice when the negative emotions set in and allow them to be present.  Have compassion for yourself while you wait for the negative emotions to pass.  If you notice that you want more unhealthy snacks to soothe the discomfort, then continue to stay present to your thoughts and emotions.

If you have been comfort eating more during this pandemic, then you are not alone.  Bringing awareness that eating unhealthy food is only causing momentary pleasure before leading to negative thoughts and emotions can help you to make healthier choices.  If you are feeling bad about the way that you are eating, and you want help gaining back control, you can book a free call with me.

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