"Comfort" without the "eating"

"If you finish all of your vege's then you can have ice-cream!"

"Since you did so well in your exam I have made your favourite dessert!"

"I am so stressed this week I just need chocolate to keep me going"

We are constantly surrounded by phrases about food being a reward and a comfort. Comfort eating is a learned behaviour that most of us have grown up with to some degree, and therefore seek comfort and reward in the form of food- even if it makes us feel bloated and full afterwards!

Being told as a child that we can only have dessert if we finish our broccoli- sends us the message that dessert is WAY better than broccoli and also makes us start putting foods into "healthy" and "unhealthy" categories. As an adult we use this learned behaviour when we "treat" ourselves to ice-cream or chocolate after a hard day, or a week of dieting. We also begin to associate food with certain times in our lives e.g. apple crumble reminds us of staying at a grandparents house, tim tams remind us of a childhood friend, and cheese and crackers remind us of relaxed nights with our partner after a hard week. We have our favourite foods that we love and crave for - but do we love the taste of these or do we actually just love what we associate that food with? E.g. spending time with loved ones.

Night-time snacking is very common. The reason for this is often because this is the only time in the whole day when we can totally relax and unwind! We don't really feel hungry- but out of habit we head to the kitchen for a sweet snack. When we are looking for food at this time- this is usually to fill something that is missing- "comfort eating". Instead of reaching for food- try to give yourself something else comforting. We get the same feeling of satisfaction (if not more!) and we don't end up eating our night away!

Try these ideas the next time you find yourself thinking about food when you really aren't physically hungry:

1. Have a conversation with someone. Whether this is in person or talking over the phone- have a break from scrolling instagram and facebook and actually talk to the people that you love having in your life.

2. Have a hot shower and use a delicious face mask or moisturiser.

3. Change your sheets- amazingly satisfying and comforting to snuggle into!

4. Search for and book a holiday- even one night away at a "book a batch" with your partner or a couple of friends gives you something to look forward to and a chance to get away from the usual 9-5 routine!

5. Online shop for a new outfit. Got an event coming up but nothing that you really want to wear? Don't leave it until the last minute and go through the same motions of complaining about how you have no clothes- find something new (or secondhand) that you love!

6. Play cards with someone

7. Paint your nails

8. Put a movie on and put your phone in another room so there are no distractions.

9. Read a book! Grab some books from the library and let yourself totally forget about work, stress, worries.

10. Make a pot of tea. There are so many delicious fruity and sleepy teas around. Tea can be super comforting and can fill a gap in your tummy if needed!

11. Brush, floss, and whiten your teeth- always an amazing feeling!

12. Take up a hobby like sewing, knitting, or any other craft. Doing something that you love will totally distract you from eating- and also make you realise a whole new set of skills that you didn't know you had!

13. Clean an area of your house. Do you keep walking past the spare bedroom or looking at your shower thinking how good it would feel to just clean it. Do it! Cleaning and decluttering can be very therapeutic and gives a great sense of achievement and satisfaction.

14. Do a wardrobe clean out and make a pile of clothes to donate. Your wardrobe will be so much easier to navigate and you might even discover items that you forgot that you had!

15. Go for a walk. Getting some fresh air onto your face and into your lungs feels amazing and we all know it.

16. Do you have a pet? Show them some attention! Give them a brush, a snuggle, or even talk to them. They are in your home because you put them there so make sure that they know they are loved!

17. Stretching and yoga feels amazing! It doesn't have to be strenuous and you don't even need a mat or to book a class. Either youtube a session or just get down on the floor and hold yourself in any stretch that releases your muscles. You will feel more relaxed afterwards and it can help alot with sleep.

18. Meditate. I used to think that meditation was sitting with crossed legs and my eyes closed in front of a lake like all great insta-pics suggest. Actually- it can be as simple as lying on the couch and shutting your eyes. When you think about our day- we are waking up, rushing to get ready, working all day, smiling and chatting to everyone we meet, coming home tired and making dinner, etc. etc. There is no down time and we never get the chance to fully just stop! One of my favourite meditation activities is to think right back to when you woke up in the morning, and go through your whole day again in your head. Do it as fast as you can- it shouldn't take very long- and it gives you the chance to reflect and think about everything that happened to you in the day. It gives you the chance to think about how you reacted to situations, and possibly what you would do differently in future. It's a great tool to slow us down and stop the days flying by without a second thought.

19. Keep a journal! This might be a gratitude journal, or even just a diary about what significant things happened to you that day. Write down what you learnt, what you struggled with, something that made you happy, etc. This is another great tool to keep you in the moment and stop you thinking about the next 100 things on your to-do list that you need to get done.

20. Hugging is proven to reduce our stress hormones, and increase our feel good hormones. It makes us feel calmer, reduces our heart rate, and helps us to relax. We are surrounded by people all the time that we would hug in a heart beat but do we actually ever do it?