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Are you eating for comfort or punishment?

It is a common belief that if you overeat or binge then you are eating for comfort. Whilst for some that may be true, through my experience, I think a lot of people actually eat to punish themselves. Let’s see what rings true for you…

It is very common to use food or drink to help you feel better after a hard day, when something has gone wrong or if you just need cheering up. Food taste delicious, it doesn’t judge you for whatever just happened and while you are eating it, it can make you feel amazing. The problem is, you are using food for something that it wasn’t designed for. You are likely to be eating when you are not hungry and using food to help control the way you feel.

The question is, when you do this, are you using food as a form of comfort or punishment?

If the eating experience truly provided you with comfort, you would feel better afterwards right? You would feel comforted, happier and positive! So let us reflect on this – how do you feel when you have reached for a second chocolate bar, gone back for seconds or thirds because your day has been rubbish and you ‘deserve it’, or when you drive out of your way to pick up another bottle of wine to help you ‘feel better’ after a bad day?!

If the aftermath leaves you feeling guilty, disappointed or with some form of self-hatred, has it really provided you with the comfort you were hoping for?

I believe that if you feel bad before, during or after eating or only get a temporary sense of satisfaction followed by some negative conversation in your head like ‘why did I just eat that?’ then you are likely to be using food as a form of punishment rather than comfort. Does that sound like you?

It’s okay, this is far more common than you realise and you aren’t mad, stupid or odd for doing it! You have just learnt to use food (or drink) as your default coping mechanism in times of need.

So, what do you need to do? You need to find a new coping mechanism that isn’t as damaging, as well as to work on the way that you think at times when you feel like using food or drink for the wrong reasons.

For more on managing your eating behaviours and overcoming eating for comfort and punishment, grab a copy of my best-selling book,
Lose Weight for Life and my NEW book, Feel Good for Life.

For help sorting out your food habits and behaviours, you can also head to see one of my team at Mission Nutrition.

Love, Claire x

Claire Turnbull, BSc (Hons) Dietetics UK, NZ-registered nutritionistManaging director of Mission Nutrition, and Healthy Food Guide nutritionist.

First published: Nov 2014



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