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toolaura4ya's avatar

Why does one use food as a comfort and how can this chain be broken?

Asked by toolaura4ya (275points) June 5th, 2008 from iPhone

I’m having such a hard time. I started having anxiety and mild depression and I’ve gained 20 pounds since last summer. I notice myself eating horrible foods whenever I want and I always feel sick after I’ve eaten. How is using food as a vice comforting me when post-consumation I feel bloated and sad about my weight.

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6 Answers

hollywoodduck's avatar

Because eating the food is not about how you feel after, it’s how you feel while you’re eating it. Maybe that food gives you pleasure. Maybe the taste of that particular item reminds you of a simpler time. Plus for that brief moment while you’ve got that really good chocolate cake in your mouth, you’re happy. That’s really what you want, that feeling of happiness and satisfaction and since you may not have it other places, the food is where you go.

Perhaps you should think about seeing a counselor who could work with you on your anxiety and depression. I found it to be very helpful, but I also know that it’s not for everyone too.

Les's avatar

I’ve found that when I am at home (like on the weekends, or when I get home from work), and I am surrounded by my kitchen and all the scrumptiousness that lurks within, it is really easy to eat. I always get much hungrier when I am in that situation, as opposed to when I am busy at my desk or in the lab at work. I have struggled with exactly what you are describing, and the only thing I have found that works for me is to get out and do something. It doesn’t even have to be exercise, just something to get you away from the temptation of eating. But like hollywoodduck said above, I second the talking to a counselor. Are you a college student? If you are, there are probably free counseling services on your campus. If not, look in the phone book for some ideas. I did the counseling thing a few times, and it has always worked. Sometimes it is just nice to talk to someone. Good luck, I hope you start feeling better soon.

BronxLens's avatar

Edited from article Comfort-food Cravings May Be Body’s Attempt To Put Brake On Chronic Stress

Back in 2003 UCSF researchers identified a biochemical feedback system in rats that could explain why some people crave comfort foods – such as chocolate chip cookies and greasy cheeseburgers – when they are chronically stressed, and why such people are apt to gain weight in the abdomen.

“Our studies suggest that comfort food applies the brakes on a key element of chronic stress,” says study co-author Norman Pecoraro, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of senior author Mary Dallman, PhD, UCSF professor of physiology. And it could explain, he says, why solace is often sought in such foods by people with stress, anxiety or depression.

Evolutionarily, the drive to eat comfort foods makes sense, says Pecoraro. In the animal kingdom, it’s an eat or be eaten world, and a body under constant, or chronic, stress may preferentially eat high-energy foods to stay in the game. Under the model that the research team has proposed, glucocorticoids would both prompt vigilance to threats and send a signal to the brain of a chronically stressed animal to seek high-energy food. If it were successful in finding such food, stress and its attendant feelings would be terminated.

“If, after the near-miss on the freeway, you get into work and almost lose your job during an argument with your boss, and have a fight at home that night – and these types of events are relentless—you’re going to have chronically elevated adrenal hormones [ie., chronic stress],” he says. There has to be a brake on the system, and, for some, it’s chocolate.

loser's avatar

Are you taking any medication for your anxiety and depression? That could be causing it.

phoenyx's avatar

How well are you doing all the regular stuff: positive social interaction, sleep, exercise, etc.? If you can figure out the cause(s) you may understand the result better.

emilyrose's avatar

I also recommend (and I have said this a lot on fluther) taking omega 3s. Try any omegas that are specially formulated for anxiety and depression. This is important, you can’t take just any omega 3s. I use these:

Also exercise is HUGE…... and go easy on the alcohol too and other drugs if you do them. It can have lasting emotional effects days later…..

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