What did you replace your comfort eating with?
March 10, 2016 2:59 AM   Subscribe

You are future me. You used to self-sabotage your healthy intentions after shitty days by eating weird, crappy foods. No disordered eating or thinking, just zero self control and a feeling of 'fuck the plan, I'm sad and I deserve to feel better'. What did you successfully replace the weird crappy foods with to give you the same 'comfort blanket' feeling without the sabotage?

I'm also interested in hearing how you broke out of the self-comfort mindset too I guess, but I'm self-aware enough to know that I'm always going to need to give myself a little hug after a shit day.

I really want to know what the better way of doing that is for you. Food-based is ideal, but other small physical stuff too.

Assume that this feeling often comes on after drinking so 'exercise!' is not always going to be an option.
posted by citands to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
Unsalted brazil nuts, and berries (I always have a packet of frozen raspberries in the freezer). Brazil nuts satisfy the craving for fats, and I associate raspberries with cocktails and fancy tarts = good times!
posted by travellingincognito at 3:03 AM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

A warm bath or shower, maybe with extra-luxurious bubble bath.
posted by third word on a random page at 3:36 AM on March 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

For me stopping the drinking part really helps not go down "fuck the plan" road, or at least not go quite as far down it. Not like I don't drink, but recently I've been trying to cut back and the "unplanned eating" thing definitely peels back a little with it.

Fruit juice popsicles are great for this, weather/climate in the house permitting - they can be made or bought very low calorie and still feel good enough to eat that I get the sense of treating myself. In fact I can pretty much always take care of a sweet craving without going overboard, it's the salty wants that are harder to deal with. For me, bizarrely, ham and mustard seems to be one of my magic foods that satisfy that desire. I don't know if it'd work the same for you or not. Pickles as well, when I can find them where I live, are salty-wish solutions.

I also take very long, very hot showers, which is a nice physical enjoyment thing, though I can't do that every day.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 3:40 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

this feeling often comes on after drinking

You did ask us to speak from our own experience, so... before I stopped comfort eating, I stopped drinking. Like, long before.

Okay, and I still fail sometimes at staying off the sweet, sweet chocolate, but two strategies that help are
- stay off the carbs / sugars completely (I still have fruit tho). The first few days are HARD, but then my cravings almost disappear. Until I crack. *cough*
- I spend a long time with food prep. So when my mind goes to "oh, food!", rather than cramming my face right away, I make myself sth really nice (and healthy!). It scratches the itch, and by the time my healthy meal is ready, I eat cuz I'm hungry, not cuz I'm antsy.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 3:46 AM on March 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

I've been taking lots of walks over the last year, and that's helped some.
posted by Area Man at 4:08 AM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

i don't suffer from this so much, but just yesterday i was feeling tired and crappy, but didn't want to eat, so i got on my bike and cycled up the nearest hill. it doesn't just make me feel good - it also does exactly the opposite of eating comfort food, in making me fitter rather than fatter. so finding an exercise you enjoy is a godsend.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:11 AM on March 10, 2016

Walking. Putting a sanctioned amount of chocolate per day on the counter that I can eat as I like. Baths and indulgent books, often at the same time. Actually, water in almost any form always helps: a tall drink of, a good cry, a bath, a shower, a hot cuppa, puddle stomping, swimming, singing in the, et cetera. Binge tv watching can be step in the right direction, but has its own perils.
posted by cocoagirl at 4:13 AM on March 10, 2016 [11 favorites]

A nice, hot cup of (diet) cocoa or carob milk (made with soy/oat/almond milk)?

A square or two of SUPER DARK chocolate?

A spoonful of peanut butter?

These aren't "healthy" per se, but they aren't fried/salty foods either and might be strong/comforting enough to hit the spot you are looking for without going overboard and into total "f*ck it" mode.
posted by Halo in reverse at 4:15 AM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Orgasms. Alone or with friends.
Failing that, I'm in love with pickles, caper berries and when I am in more of a nervous nibble mood....a small bag of uncooked rice to crunch on one grain at a time. It's an old trick for stopping biting nails but it's oral and crunchy and helps. Also I like to paint my nails and file them mindlessly while I listen to tv or a podcast. Even if I take the colour off immediately because I smudged it or it looks shite, it's the meditation of painting my nails that focuses and calms me. Probably just a marginally less embarrassing version of adult mindful colouring in, now that I think if it.
posted by taff at 4:20 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Instead of eating a lot of something crappy, eat a little of something prohibitively expensive. And then paint your nails so you can't go back for seconds.
posted by phunniemee at 4:21 AM on March 10, 2016 [13 favorites]

Coffee that takes time to prepare: if you have access to the machines and gadgets, I find concentrating on making myself a delicious (and usually giant) espresso or cortado or a proper cappuccino with foamed (skimmed!) milk and everything, provides that sense of treating yourself to something special and reassuring.
posted by AFII at 4:23 AM on March 10, 2016

Sometimes it's like Halo says, where I just need a small hit of something. (a handful of chocolate chips usually works in this case)

But mostly my thing turned into 'you can have it, if you make it.' So there's usually no pre-made sweets/snacks in the house, just ingredients. The act of baking/cooking became therapeutic in and of itself. Getting out of my head by focusing on the process, and getting the hit of accomplishment for a nice finished project is my new comfort blanket.

And usually by the time whatever I made is done I don't need it so badly. I can just have one or two cookies and then bring the rest in to work the next day, which keeps me from gorging the next day. (The joke at work is that if you want treats you should get someone to piss me off)
posted by Caravantea at 4:29 AM on March 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

You need a goal and you need motivation. You have to want the long term deferred benefit of not eating bad food more than the short term comfort.
posted by deathpanels at 4:37 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I found this book very helpful: 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food.
posted by CMcG at 5:14 AM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tea. No, but REALLY GOOD fancy delicious tea. And then curl up with a blanket and do something that feels extra-cozy while you drink it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:16 AM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Food cravings that come on after drinking are a double whammy: you've got a case of the "fuck its" and the alcohol has messed up your blood sugar so you probably need something to eat to stabilize it and you'll just grab anything. Eat something with protein or better, eat before you have anything to drink. Make a plate of nice food with some protein and fat and eat that. If you home from a shitty day at work having not eaten for hours and drink alcohol, when you end up eating it will probably be something unhealthy.
posted by BibiRose at 5:17 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would put a bit of peanut butter on dates. It's so chewy and sweet it almost takes like peanut butter cups... but - super duper high fibre, fairly good for you (other than sugars) and has protein. And you don't have to eat many to get the "full" or "sweetness craving satiated" feeling.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:28 AM on March 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

Chewing gum, multiple pieces at a time because it feels forbidden. I always keep a variety of flavors.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 5:41 AM on March 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

A quick game of candy crush or similar will erase the cravings for a bit.
posted by RoadScholar at 6:14 AM on March 10, 2016

Sauceome comic on pampering yourself that doesn't involve food. (I highly recommend the entire comic that starts here.)
posted by jillithd at 6:15 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Could you possibly invest in a lap cat? It feels really rude to get up to get snacks when a cat is in your lap.
posted by amtho at 6:19 AM on March 10, 2016 [10 favorites]

Popcorn with all kinds of flavors. You can go full face stuffing glutton and not ruin your diet as long as you pop it yourself -air popped or bowl in microwave with little to no oil. It also can punish you quite severally if you over do it (popcorn bloat and cramps!).

Intense cardio exercise also wipes out my appetite and repairs my moods.

Avoid boredom as much as you can.
posted by srboisvert at 6:22 AM on March 10, 2016

One thing you could do is brush your teeth.

I'd like to gently suggest, as a person with disordered eating, that if you're eating food not because you're hungry but because it comforts you, and it is a problem enough that you would like to stop it, that actually is disordered eating. Why are you sad after drinking sometimes? Could you try addressing the root of that?
posted by woodvine at 6:54 AM on March 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

Walks. Going to sleep. Spoons of peanut butter.
posted by greta simone at 6:58 AM on March 10, 2016

I agree with ClarissaWAM. When I cut out sugar and grains, especially flours), I was much better able to get through the day without comfort eating. There is a lot of information out there regarding hypoglycemia, which occurs in some people after eating even a small amount of glucose contained in snack food, flour, etc. The hypoglycemia sets up very strong craving for starchy foods and alcohol. After a few days to a week of being very low carb, the cravings pretty much go away. It's a tough first week, so maybe try to do it on a vacation or some place where you are out of your normal routine. It's sooo much easier after the first week, you won't believe it. Also, drinking can very often cause B vitamin deficiency (among other things), with Thaimine (vitamin B1) being particularly affected. Take a supplement called Benfotiamine, which is a fat soluble form of B1 that is better absorbed. These changes really helped me with food and alcohol cravings, but you have to be diligent. It's so worth it though, not to feel like a slave to food and drink!
posted by waving at 7:00 AM on March 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

I try to drink a big glass of water/seltzer before I snack at all.

When I'm being really good, I start with a piece of fruit first. Having cheese with an apple or some peanut butter with a banana can cut a craving quick.

Nthing popcorn, but make it the good ways (stovetop/airpopper) and avoid microwave crap. Also nthing fruit juice popsicles. Maybe try getting some high-quality whole grain crackers, fancy cheeses and meats, or exotic chocolates; consciously treat yourself to spendy snacks that you won't want to finish in a sitting.

Put on your favorite brand of kick-ass music and dance. I've also recently started hula hooping. These are two physical activities that are particularly fun after a few drinks!
posted by juliplease at 7:28 AM on March 10, 2016

Cherries, mangos and popcorn. I buy frozen mangos and find it satisfying to eat them frozen - crunchy, I can kind of suck the flavor out and after a few, my mouth is so cold that I don't want to eat anything. Brushing your teeth and drinking water are also good stop gaps.
But really, one of the biggest differences for me is realizing my personality type is someone who is better at abstaining from baked goods, candies, etc. completely. Keeping a few snacks around as a reward just does not work for me. If I occasionally treat myself to a treat like that, it's much harder for me to resist them or I get in a mindset of, "Well I already had one, so I might as well have two more! Why not finish the bag!" It's far, far easier for me to frame it as, "I don't eat sugary foods anymore." I don't keep them in the house and even at restaurants when people are ordering desserts, I usually order a coffee drink or decadent cocktail instead. My only real exceptions are birthdays (life rule: never turn down birthday cake) and Christmas cookies. Usually, then I do bake them myself because I enjoy the process and I often can reduce the sugar considerably.
posted by areaperson at 7:30 AM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Greek yogurt (I get Fage brand--expensive but definitely superior) with some honey and a little bit of granola mixed in. I loooove desserts (especially chocolate) but this somehow satisfies me the way a bowl of ice cream would.
posted by lovableiago at 7:32 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Instead of comforting with snacks and treats; comfort with a small meal. Keep two different cheeses in stock. Crackers, red or yellow peppers, kosher dills, grapes, fuji apples, avocadoes, hummus, celery, a cold roast chicken. Buy yourself a small platter and a condiment cup that matches it. I mean small, so when you fill it with cheese slices, pepper strips, celery stalks, crackers, it looks cozy and special, it is a gift you give yourself. It is a light meal. If you are out of sorts, drink 16 ounces of water and go for a walk. Prepare the platter before you walk, and stick it in the fridge, for when you return, as a reward for being you and caring for yourself in that way.
posted by Oyéah at 7:47 AM on March 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

I love LOVE staying up late at night with a glass or three of wine. That is not great for my long-term weight goals. I find that the thing I love slightly more than late-night dranks and snacks is a wonderful sleep.

What helps facilitate the early-to-bed miracle sleep: some kind of exercise during the day, sleep deprivation the night before (obviously not healthy, but if circumstances line up this way it helps), melatonin, Ambien/Xanax/Flexiril if you have any such med on hand, an orgasm, sleepytime tea, a nice heavy mask for your eyes.

Ugh, there is no pleasure greater than a good sleep. It feels super-indulgent but is also good for you in every way.
posted by witchen at 7:53 AM on March 10, 2016

I agree that drinking is the linchpin here. It's setting you up to fail - it's the first domino.

I've found to some extent that replacing food obsession (and drinking) with a tea obsession can work. Tea is fun because there are hundreds of varieties, so there's no monotony. They can tweak your mood a little, and it's fun to experiment with new kinds. It has paraphernalia - tea ball, favorite mug, kettle, teapot, spoons, etc. - so it can be a sort of hobby to play with the toys. It's warm and satisfying and because it's mostly water, it's kind of filling. And finally, it's also a ritual with prescribed steps that takes time to move through, so it paces you out and can calm you down. Next time you're home of an evening and looking to relax, try brewing a cup of really special tea and sitting with it to calm down. It's pretty effective and might not mess with your plan in the same way booze does.
posted by Miko at 8:10 AM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I tend to make one (or two) weekly batches of a really low energy density soup to keep in the fridge (or freezer). It's nice to have them around so when I get that feeling I can have a couple bowls (or more) without feeling guilty or shameful.

By low energy density, I mean: no oil, no nuts, no grains, no pasta, no potato, just vegetables and spices and water. This week, it's:

1 onion
1 leek
3 stalks celery
4 leaves kale
1 tomato
2 cloves garlic
6 cups water
fistful cilantro
fistful parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon oil-free bouillon
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch spinach

Cook all ingredients together, except spinach, for 10 minutes. Roughly chop the spinach and place it in a blender. Add several ladles full of the cooked soup/veg mixture into the blender. Puree to your liking. Add back to the remaining soup. Continue pureeing if you want a smooth soup, or leave partly chunky.

It's infinitely customizable. I go with whatever veg I have leftover from the week, since soup is a great equalizer of veggies that are slightly past their prime.

Yay soup!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:49 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sugar-free candies and treats, with sugar alcohols that punish me for eating too many.

Plain corn Chex eaten as dry snack.

Crochet. If I'm making a dishcloth, I'm not eating.
posted by monopas at 9:36 AM on March 10, 2016

For me, drinking inevitably leads to unplanned eating. What I can sometimes get away with is about 2 oz of wine with some really good cheese, but I simply can't drink any more than that without going completely off the dietary rails.

I cope with a shitty day by taking a hot bath, or tumbling a blanket in the dryer until it's warm and getting under that, and having a nice cup of mint tea with honey and some dates and nuts. I subscribe to AcornTV so I have a reliable supply of British cozy mysteries to watch.

But, besides not drinking, the biggest help to not eating crap is not buying crap. If there is bread in the house, I'll eat it until it's gone, so I just don't buy it. Basically all I buy is ingredients and the closest I come to convenience food is fruit, cheese, nuts, and frozen or raw vegetables. Everything else requires cooking, so, being lazy, I turn to those first.
posted by HotToddy at 10:05 AM on March 10, 2016

+1 not drinking helps control comfort eating, like, a lot. Cutting out the alcohol may solve your problem entirely.

Low-carbing (sticking to protein, fat, and veggies) pretty much took all my cravings away -- what I thought was comfort eating / lack of willpower turned out to be, I think, a blood-sugar thing. Protein, carbs, and veggies keep your blood sugar very stable, while eating carbs, especially simple carbs like bread or sugar, can really mess with blood sugar and insulin and make your eating go completely out of control. Really, try to stick to low-carb whole foods for a week and see how much improvement you see.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:16 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Tweeting bad jokes on an anonymous account.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:22 AM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not just in a bag: loose leaf tea made in a special teapot, that has a cozy, and sipped from a cup kept on a cup warmer (so that it remains hot and I drink it more slowly).

It's about the ritual and warmth as much as it is about the tea itself, although cultivating a taste for different types of tea makes it more interesting.

I find that I am the type of person who just ... wants to be nibbling or drinking something all the time, especially when I'm stressed. So, I find things like this pretty comforting.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:47 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

My comfort snacks used to be pastries -- brownies, cakes, cookies, basically anything made out of sugar and flour and butter. Lately I've started keeping protein-based snacks in the house instead. String cheese with hot sauce, dried cheese snacks, tuna and crackers, and, most helpfully, peanut butter. I get Peanut Butter & Co.'s Dark Chocolate Dreams. It's got a fair bit of sugar in it, but almost as much protein, and one big spoonful can last up to 10 minutes if I'm being mindful and eating at a reasonable pace. Or, sometimes, I eat a quarter cup and call it dinner. It's not the healthiest option, but when I'm having a rough brain day it's a decent compromise between "I need to eat 12 Reese's cups" and "food is better when it has actual nutritional value."

Brushing your teeth is a great replacement activity. I almost never crave sweets with the same intensity once my mouth feels all minty and clean.
posted by landunderwave at 11:00 AM on March 10, 2016

Comfort eating for me usually means sweets. I've found that making myself a big mug of non-caffeinated tea (this is a current favorite) and adding a little bit of sugar/honey/whatever sweetener and a splash of soy/almond/coconut/regular milk helps to tame the sugar craving.
posted by gumtree at 12:58 PM on March 13, 2016

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