"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.