When life’s getting you down, or your stress levels are about to shoot through the roof, drowning your sorrows with a bar of chocolate or plate of French fries might seem like a pretty good idea. After all, ‘comfort’ foods make us feel
better right? Wrong.
Contrary to popular belief, comfort foods won’t make you feel better, at least not in the long run. It’s true that foods packed full of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and additives, can chemically affect the brain, leaving you feeling energized and happy; but this ‘high’ is short lived and quickly followed by a crash, leaving you feeling far worse than you did beforehand.
When anger and sadness get confused with hunger…
Our emotions are often felt in our stomachs. From nervous butterflies in your tummy before an interview, to a feeling of ‘emptiness’ when you feel sad or angry; your brain naturally finds it difficult to distinguish between your emotions and feelings of hunger.
You can’t fill up the ‘empty’ feeling you get in your stomach that’s caused by emotions, with food. If you’re an emotional eater, no amount of crisps or chocolate will make you feel better. Filling up a drained emotional bank with food, or trying to fill up a hungry stomach with emotions, just doesn’t work. They are both entirely different things.
To feel better you need to share or express your feelings, not try to hide them with food.
These 5 foods will leave you feeling a whole lot worse…
1. Sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits
There’s no denying that processed, sugary and fatty foods can give you an instant high, but the inevitable sugar crash afterwards, will only leave you feeling tired and craving for more. On top of this, processed foods are often packed full of trans-fats that lead to obesity, mood swings, heart disease and diabetes.
Invariably, if you’re trying to lose weight, bingeing on comfort foods will leave you with feelings of guilt, shame and sadness too. This only adds to the negative feelings that you’re trying to deal with in the first place.
So if you really feel the urge for something sweet, why not opt for a few squares of good quality, dark chocolate instead? Dark chocolate contains chemicals that encourage the brain to release the feel-good endorphins which will leave you feeling happier. Add in the fact that it’s highly nutritious, full of antioxidants and may even help to prevent cardiovascular disease, and you’re onto a winner.
A Harvard study analysed over 120,000 people over the span of 20 years, to see how small changes in behaviour can affect long-term weight loss. When they looked at the foods that can cause the greatest weight gain, crisps came out top.
Crisps are fried in oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids which can block the absorption of mood-enhancing omega-3 fatty acids. So whilst they may feel good whilst you’re eating them, they’ll only end up lowering your mood eventually.
If you need something with a crunch and the satisfied feeling you get from eating something fatty, try substituting crisps for a small handful of nuts instead. Nuts can not only improve your mood, but when eaten in moderation, can also aid weight-loss too.
3. Breakfast cereals
When you’re feeling stressed and you need a quick pick-me-up, reaching for a bowl of sugary cereal is a quick and easy thing to do. Sadly, a bowl of most processed cereal contains more sugar than a donut, leaving you with the inevitable sugar crash again. Not only this, but the manufacturing process also destroys the vitamins and goodness from the wholegrain, which is precisely what you need more of if you’re trying to get on top of your emotions.
So if you need something really comforting, why not swap the coco-pops for a bowl of warm porridge with cinnamon, raisins and chopped apple instead? Not only does it feel incredibly satisfying, but the sweetness from the apple is a great substitute for sugar and cinnamon is helps to curb sugar cravings.
The more fatty, processed or sugary a food is, the harder it is to stop eating it. Pizza is one of those foods that even with the best will in the world, is incredibly moreish and difficult to just eat one slice of. Yet the downside is that if you eat too much of it, you’ll soon be feeling tired, bloated and sluggish.
The good news is that you don’t need to give up on the joys of pizza entirely though. Remember, the worst culprits are the highly processed, cheap versions. So why not make your own thin-crust pizza using wholegrain flour and pile it high with veggies to make it a much healthier option. This will still feel like a ‘comfort’ food, but without all the negative side-effects.
We all know that there are times when those shiny, golden chips are going to be a whole lot more appealing than a plate of boiled potatoes. There’s simply something much more ‘comforting’ about the chips. The reason for this is their high fat content, or if they are processed, they may also be coated in addictive chemicals that can leave you craving for more.
Eat too many chips and again, you’re going to end up feeling pretty bloated and sluggish for an hour or two afterwards. Their high-carb content will also play havoc with your blood sugar as they are quick to be broken down, leaving you feeling pretty rubbish all in all.
Even more worryingly, is the reason that they have that golden shine to them. The shine is a sign of acrylamide, the chemical that is caused by foods being cooked at high temperatures, such as frying. Acrylamide is carcinogenic and obviously, best avoided totally if possible.
Eating white potatoes is pretty much like eating sugar as far as our bodies are concerned. So if you need a pick-me up and only a bag of chips will do, then why not go for sweet potato chips instead? They’re sweet, satisfying and a whole lot better for you.
Use a Food Diary…
One of the best weight-loss tools is a food diary, particularly if you’re an emotional eater. It helps you to gain a real awareness of not only what you’re really eating, but just as importantly, why. When you can identify the foods that you eat with the way that you’re feeling, it’s clear to see what your ‘comfort’ triggers are and put in place either distraction techniques, or choose more healthy alternatives.
High quality diet = better moods
Research shows that a high quality diet, rich in good nutrition, is associated with better mental health. Whilst low-quality food is associated with an increased risk of depression and mood swings etc.
Foods rich in Tryptohpan increase our levels of serotonin, making us sleep better, improve our mood and feel much happier. Try to add plenty of foods rich in Tryptohpan into your daily diet, such as; tofu, nuts, beans, lentils, seeds, cheese, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, and eggs.
Go steady on the latte…
If you’re sensitive to caffeine it can make depression worse and rather than be a pick-me-up, it can leave you feeling anxious or tired.
Caffeine can also affect your sleep, which in turn will affect your mood. So learn to be aware of how it makes you feel and maybe swap for herbal teas or hot water with lemon instead. Remember, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon will also help you to sleep a whole lot better. And we all know how much better a good night sleep can make us feel.
What are your comfort foods and when do you crave them the most? What alternatives foods could you eat, or strategies could you put in place to help you make healthier choices. Please share in the comments below, as we ALWAYS love to hear from you and you never know who you may be inspiring in the process.
Join Our Newsletter
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.