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How to Tweak Comfort Food - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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How to Tweak Comfort Food
I got to talking with someone about comfort food and the challenges of modulating mood that way without overeating.

Comfort food is a broad category with a cluster of traits such as warm, soft, sweet, creamy. It works on the body and mind in various ways to soothe stress and restore equilibrium. So long as the chosen foods are reasonably healthy, and less-healthy treats are consumed in moderation, this is a useful tool for self-regulation. Here are some ideas for improving your relationship with comfort foods ...


* If the effect comes from specific nutrients, then tweaking your diet might fix that with healthier things. Check out this chart of cravings and nutrients. Most of these mood-boosting foods are healthy, or at least, better than junk food.

* If the effect is tactile or flavorful, you can explore not only healthier versions of the same thing (such as stevia instead of sugar) but also completely different things. Trying new foods makes me happy, even though I have to be careful because my digestion is iffy. I like fruit as a comfort food because it's juicy -- not something many people have thought to try, but I've gotten a few hooked on it. As a bonus, lite comfort foods are less prone to sit in your belly like a brick if your low or anxious mood shuts down your digestion temporarily.

* If the effect is nostalgic or otherwise emotional, sometimes it is possible to reset that by having someone you care about make healthy nibblements for you. My fondness for chopped apples in a cup comes from my grandmother making it for me. Mom would do ants on a log (celery and peanut butter with raisins). Whether you're caring for yourself or someone else, include at least some tasty, healthy items and those are likely to establish as comfort foods. Something I have seen in Terramange but not here is a support group where people take turns making and feeding each other healthy comfort foods.

* Pay attention to the visual appeal. It doesn't add have to calories but can be a wonderful boost to mood. Also foods that are naturally bright in color tend to have more nutrients. Hence the appeal of salads with mixed vegetables, putting diced peppers into eggs, and fanciful sushi. I like acorn squash (dull green outside, yellow inside) but carnival squash (mottled bright green-orange-white outside, yellow inside) is much more appealing even though the taste is similar.

* Some people find making food as comforting as eating it. By focusing on the process throughout, you can get more comfort for the same amount of calories.

* Some people feel comforted by the smell of food -- especially things like baking bread or simmering soup. You might look into types of comfort food that take a long time to make, filling the house with delicious smells. This is one of the things that makes me really happy and sociable. Crockpot recipes and slow oven recipes excel at this. My Amazing Mango Ham recipe smells intensely of oranges for hours, even though it has none and is actually made with mango glaze. A nonfood alternative is simmering potpourri that smells edible.

* Folks who love spicy food may be craving the endorphin rush. Peppers, horseradish, ginger, mustard, and other hot spices create a burn that releases the body's feel-good chemicals. If you think you don't like spicy foods, try different kinds. I can't tolerate peppers, but I will eat crystallized ginger out of the bag and lick raw juice off my fingers.

* Some probiotics are comfort foods, not just for the taste and texture, but for the soothing effects. Yogurt is one of mine -- especially French yogurt with its silky texture -- and I'm also a fan of live sauerkraut, a classic German comfort food. There are other types of food that boost mood and enhance brain function too.



* If you really like the sensation of eating, look for foods that are low-calorie but filling. This list includes some comfort foods such as popcorn and miso soup. You can eat more of these, keeping your mouth and hands busy longer, without overloading on calories.



* If you are working on self-care or self-compassion, then consider making healthy comfort food as a way to take care of yourself. This works especially well if other people aren't treating you very well.

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cat_sanctuary From: cat_sanctuary Date: December 6th, 2017 02:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent article and way to use links! Thanks!
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