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Comfort Food

When a woman is feeling down, she turns to the 5Cs.
Nope… not Credit Card, Condo, Car , Carreer and Cash.

But it’s Cakes, Cookies, Candies, Chips & Chocolates.
For men, it’s normally ice cream, soup, pizza or pasta.

We all have our own comfort foods. A number of studies have been done to identify the root cause of why people turn to certain foods for comfort. Comfort food differs very much from even one sibling to another.

According to studies done by Brian Wansink, who wrote the book “Mindless Eating”, he dispels 3 myths on comfort food:

Myth 1: Most comfort foods are indulgently unhealthy.
According to studies done in his lab, he discovered that out of a list of comfort foods provided by many, he find that soup, steak, and even vegetables does make it to the list of comfort food. The trick: Select healthier choices or control the portions of unhealthy food. He also mentioned the reason why so many popular diets failed long term is because the plan usually deprives the person from eating comfort food. Deprivation is a recipe for failure.

Myth 2: People tend to eat comfort food when they’re sad, stressed or bored.
At first, I thought so- that’s why we call them comfort food. Think again- remember those happy times at Hard Rock Cafe or Fridays when you are having happy gathering with friends? Or the endless hours sitting at the mamak stall chatting till early hours of the morning? How about caramel popcorn with coke to go with your romantic comedy at the cinema? You tend to order your favourite comfort food, right? So we eat them when we are feeling happy too.
If you can condition yourself to select healthier choices of food to eat when you are happy, your mind will tend to associate those food with happy moments. And after a while, these food will make it to your comfort food list.

Myth 3: Comfort food preferences become fixed when we are children.
When I was young, I was addicted to soft drinks, cheezies and Twisties. But when I grew up, these food were not in my comfort food list. However, I do admit that my comfort food for a long time is teh ais– tea with condensed milk, sugar and ice. So for years… I continue drinking it even though I felt it’s bad for my body- giving me knee pains and numbness in my legs. Then I started conditioning myself to coffee- ordering coffee instead of tea during my outings with friends, family time, celebrating or rewarding myself. And even though iced milk tea had hold on me for years, it is slowing losing its grip on me.

These few months when I go out with my friends for lunch, I tend to order salad with a side dish such as herbal tofu- it started because I did not want to feel sleepy and sluggish after lunch. Combined withe relaxed mood I am feeling at lunch (always choose non toxic people as my lunch mates) and I go back to office feeling light instead of uncomfortably full, my mind seemed to be associating happy times and feeling well with salad. I have now grown to love the food.

So it does not mean that just because your mom comfort you with milk and chocolate chip cookies when you were feeling sad, you have to eat bags of the cookies when you are feeling down or stressed. You can change food to healthier versions. But don’t deny yourself totally of food that you love- just learn to eat in smaller portions.

Or, you can follow me- turning to physical activities- sweating your stress and unhappiness out! To be honest, I have been under some stress these past few weeks (due to work). On a positive note, the stress also affected my appetite- did not particularly feel like stomaching anything. So I have been “punishing” my body with exercise. Knowing my body can’t take too much of cardio or weight (else I may end up spraining my muscles), I turn to yoga and pilates. It helps me deal with stress much better and the exercises have a calming effect. Just imagine, few months ago, I will turn to a regular ice blended Mo Mocha with hazelnut shot and whipped cream when I feel stressed at work.

So, it is possible to recondition ourselves thru my own personal experience and proven studies conducted. Eating unhealthy food when we are down and vulnerable just makes our mood swings worst due to sugar blues.

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