Many of us are raised using food for comfort… whether a happy or sad occasion, many involve food. Growing up we were given edible treats for good behavior, food for special occasions, food to be shown love, etc. It is not difficult to see how we learn to use food for comfort.
Eating for comfort or emotional reasons every once in a while is acceptable, but it often leads to using food as a negative coping strategy. Negative coping behaviors will only increase stress and difficult emotions and make life seem harder and more overwhelming, which will lead to further cycling into more negative behavior and poorer emotional and physical health.
Negative Coping Strategies:
- Smoking, too much caffeine, alcohol, over-eat, under-eat, overuse of medications, spending too much money, too much television, angry outbursts, illegal drugs, withdraw from people, ignore/deny stress, engage in destructive relationships.
Positive Coping Strategies:
- Exercise, proper sleep habits, healthy eating, time to relax, humor, play, healthy rituals and routines, positive thinking, time with family, time with friends, planning for the future, finding ways to manage or reduce stress, rewarding yourself for your accomplishments.
Spend some time thinking about your negative and positive coping strategies. To create a healthier lifestyle means to find ways to include the positive coping strategies into your life on a daily basis. This way, these strategies are there for you to rely on when you are feeling down and need to cope, but also structured into your life to protect you from feeling so overwhelmed or out-of-control that you cannot cope (and then turn to something negative to forget momentarily).
When you use food as a negative coping strategy, whether to over-eat, under-eat, or binge-eat, changing this behavior will mean changing your relationship with food. Begin to look at food as fuel, be more mindful when you eat for taste of comfort, and replace food as a coping tool with something more positive to fill that time or that void.
If you find you cannot replace eating with healthier behaviors and feel out-of-control with this behavior, consider seeking medical or psychological help.
Be kind to yourself and start adding in healthier, more positive behaviors each week or month!