Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Comfort Eating: I'm doing it wrong.

As you probably know, I'm depressed.

I suffer from a long history of depression, anxiety, and disordered eating.  However, I had it mostly  under control for years.  Then my mom died, and suddenly I'm dealing with copious amounts of "normal" grief.

Because of my aformentioned history of mental illness, I struggle with trying to figure out what is normal grief, and what is extreme of me.  I've come to the conclusion that everything I'm going through is normal grief. 

My depression and anxiety issues have reappeared, but I think that most "normal" people  have issues with these when a loved one dies.  It may be more extreme for those of us who already struggle with these, but I doubt it.  Anyway, I digress.

The third issue... disordered eating?  That has never gone completely away for me, but I had it shoved under the rug for a bit, disguised as a "healthy" preoccupation with Weight Watchers and other various diet plans from late 2009 to early 2012. 

My WLJ in a nutshell:  I lost a lot of weight with WW and other diet programs in 2010 and early 2011 (from 220+ to 144), then slowly gained back about 20 pounds by 2012, but felt pretty comfortable around 165...  Then shit hit the fan in May and I got back up to 209 within just a few weeks.  Since then, I've been trying really hard to at least NOT GAIN ANYMORE.  I lost a few pounds, gained a few back, etc.  I'm around 197 now, after six months of this...

A lot of this crazy imbalance has to do with COMFORT EATING.

This is not a normal thing to do, I realize.  Eating my feelings away, eating to numb myself, eating to supress, eating to distract, eating to remember, eating to forget, eating to ease lonliness, eating to procrastinate, eating because I feel guilt about the procrastination...  etc.

But it is actually normal for grief to affect one's appetite and to change one's eating habits.  Some go to this extreme, of emotional overeating, but others go to the opposite extreme and have to have folks remind them to eat.  (Is it wrong that I'm jealous of those people?  YES, probably.)

But here's the thing:  I'm comfort eating wrong.  If the goal of my comfort eating is to improve my mood, to help make life a little bit happier, or at least a little bit easier, then I'm eating the WRONG things.

According to my extensive internet research, these are foods that will actually help improve mood:
  • spinach
  • whole grains
  • FRUITS, especially bananas
  • walnuts
  • yogurt
  • dark chocolate
  • lentils
  • salmon and halibut
  • popcorn
Nowhere were MY favorite comfort foods to be found!  Nowhere did I read a list like this:
  • potato chips (dip optional)
  • corn chips
  • snack cakes
  • cookies
  • toaster pastries
  • french fries
  • macaroni and cheese
  • pizza
Therefore, I've been comfort eating all wrong.  It's time to actually try to comfort eat correctly.  I'm going to try to work these "happy foods" into my diet, and to say goodbye to the comfort foods listed above (except in moderation, of course).

I probably will not hop off of the vegetarian train to try the fish, but who knows, I may some day.  Not at first though, and I will let you guys know WAY beforehand if I decide to do that. 

At this point, I'm thinking that I'm planning to stay vegetarian for now, and may even go back to vegan eating soon, or at least have several vegan days per week

Also, another good thing for mood improvement:  MOVEMENT!!!

Which is another thing that I've let slip lately. 

It's crazy that to improve one's mood one must eat healthy foods and exercise, and yet whenever I'm in a bad mood I want to do the opposite. 

It's time to do it right. 
Are there any foods that you eat that  you do so for comfort reasons? 
Any healthy foods that you find actually DO improve your mood?


Jessie said...

Hi Leah! I'm such a comfort eater, I completely relate to this entire post. French fries are my drug (ahem, food) of choice, for sure. French fries and cold beer. French fries dipped in cheese, ranch, gravy, you name it. (I'm drooling now). I've found that a bag of light microwave popcorn is really satisfying. If you get the right kind, you can eat the entire bag without throwing off your calories (or whatever you are watching) too badly....and it feels like you really indulged because the fiber makes it very filling. And it meets the crunchy/salty criteria.

I can't wait to hear other ideas, I need so much help in this area too!

Kylie PJ said...

Leah I love your blog so much. Your honesty about your journey is great. I too have struggled with comfort eating and although its currently under control. I do wonder if I can keep it going for the rest of my life. Moderation is key, but moderation is really hard......

cyn knight said...

oh comfort eating... as someone on the other end of the spectrum; happy place, in love, getting engaged, running my 5k, on an emotional high -- the comfort eating can go both ways.
i am happy so i eat... hence the 20lb. regain!
and sadly sometimes i am so in the moment it isn't until i am done or at least midway before it hits me as to what i am doing...
i am in no way comparing my situation to yours as i cannot imagine how hard losing your mom has been -- just acknowledging that comfort/emotional eating is in fact SUPER real.
i am trying to replace it with healthy/paleo foods and allowing myself some elbow room... clearly i am not perfect.
all we can do is own it and live our life the best we can!