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Believe it or not, comfort food is a necessity in life

January 26, 2018 - Andy Flynn
This week: 430 lbs.

Last week: 435

Start (Jan. 2): 444 lbs.

Total lost: 14 lbs.

Yes, I actually wrote those words in a weight-loss column: Comfort food is a necessity in life.

After all the health-related crap I went through in 2017, I came to realize that when you strip it all down and you’re fighting for your life, it’s the little things that offer comfort that sometimes get you through the ordeal.

It was as simple as a nurse holding my hand while I was in excruciating pain during a procedure or keeping the lights on in my hospital room all night so I felt safe.

It’s the same thing with food.

I was amazed at how much comfort one Jolly Rancher candy gave me in the hospital room in Burlington while recovering from pulmonary embolisms. When I got home, I put the bag of candy next to my chair, and it still comforts me to have Jolly Ranchers near me at all times.

When my wife was in the hospital and I went home at night, I needed some comfort to get me through until the next morning. Food helped, but it didn’t top the list. Being with our dog Minnie gave me the most comfort during those dark times. And sometimes finding a familiar show on the television helped get me through the hours.

I can think of many things people turn to for comfort in life: religion, human contact (conversation, hugs and kisses), food, alcohol, drugs, laughter, time with pets, music. We’ll do whatever it takes to make us feel as though everything is going to be OK.

I’m a struggling stress eater, so I know firsthand that food is a comfort when I’m tired, frustrated or all riled up. I’ve been practicing the fine art of stress eating most of my life. What I’ve found since being on the Lake Placid Diet weight-loss journey is that I will always be a stress eater. Yet, I’ve also have learned to steer myself away from the stress-eating habits by finding alternatives to the comfort food I most crave.

For example, over the past several months, I’ve found that spending time drinking a hot cup of tea can be therapeutic and calm me down. You can’t just slam a hot cup of tea down your throat; it takes time to sip, sip, sip until it’s all gone. I started drinking more tea after dropping coffee from my diet in the fall when I was having anxiety attacks. Now I use the tea as a substitute for eating junk food. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but at least I’m having more successes than failures.

As a tea drinker, if you’re like me, you stock a variety of tea to give you comfort depending on your mood. I like plain decaf tea, peppermint, cinnamon or other herbal flavors such as chamomile. I also have different mugs I use depending on my mood. I’m pretty particular about my mugs; if I use the wrong one, I won’t be comforted.

It’s certainly more healthy to have a variety of tea stocked than having a variety of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pints in the freezer. Seriously, who does that? Buy a variety of ice cream and put it in the freezer? That’s just too tempting, and it wouldn’t last in my house. I’d be eating Ben & Jerry’s for every meal. That’s why I buy them one at a time. The last one I had — and this is an annual tradition — was New York Super Fudge Chunk on New Year’s Eve. Comforting? You bet!

One healthy comfort food that works for me is a well-built salad — eaten with whatever salad dressing I want. That, to me, is the true comfort of a salad with all the trimmings — no skimping on the dressing. While there may be extra calories involved, it’s a lot healthier than my standard go-to stress foods such as chicken wings and pizza. And the trimmings are good, too. I try black or green olives, artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, green peppers and sometimes croutons.

As I look to create more substitutes for junk food, I search for something that will give me comfort. Only then will the new-and-improved comfort food be a true stand-in for the stress-related bingeing.


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