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What is comfort eating and how to fight it

November 10, 2019

Comfort eating is an all-too-familiar trap for many Australians. Simply put, it involves using food to make yourself feel better about stressful things in your life. For example, you may find yourself reaching for chocolate when you’re exhausted from a long day of dealing with unreasonable customers, or munching your way through a family-sized bag of chips when you’re worried about your mother’s ongoing health problems. Unfortunately, few of us reach for celery sticks when we feel in need of comfort, so this is a habit which can lead to obesity and other health concerns.

If comfort eating is a problem in your life, one of the most powerful steps you can take is to list the stressful things which are triggering this pattern for you, and identify positive actions you can take to resolve them. In some instances, this might involve finding a solution to a problem, such as resigning from an unpleasant job or ending an abusive relationship. In many cases, however, you’ll find yourself stressed by things which are likely to be part of your life for weeks, months, or even years, such as living with a chronic health problem or having a family member who has been diagnosed with cancer. Because these sorts of problems may not have a satisfactory permanent solution, you need to find alternatives to comfort eating.

To do this, begin by recognising your emotions, and allowing yourself to feel them. It’s okay to feel scared if a loved one is seriously ill, frustrated that your life will always be restricted by a health problem, or angry when your boss treats you unfairly. However, instead of trying to soothe your emotions away by overeating or feasting on unhealthy foods, fight the urge by:

* Exploring relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga
* Asking friends and family members to help support you through a difficult period
* Releasing negative emotions through exercise, music, or other activities

If you continue to have difficulty identifying, acknowledging, and/or addressing the emotions which lead you to comfort eating, the best solution is to seek professional help. A caring counsellor can help you to identify and address emotional baggage which may be sabotaging your best efforts, and equip you with tools to re-establish a healthy relationship with food. Remember: comfort eating may feel good in the short term, but in the long run it creates more problems than it solves.

Ilona Nichterlein uses a combination of hypnotherapy, neuro-linguistic programming, and other therapeutic techniques to help her clients resolve problems with weight management, anxiety, and other issues which are linked to comfort eating. Call her on 0411 046 175 to make an appointment, or to discuss which services will best meet your individual needs.

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