Replacing food as comfort/reward
May 11, 2017 3:08 PM   Subscribe

What can I do/use to lift my mood instead of food? Criteria:
  • quick,
  • healthy,
  • cheap,
  • doesn't take much space,
  • doesn't take long,
  • doesn't depend on others,
  • is, erm, decent (no privacy in a small appartment),
  • not physically intense (I'm quite out of shape),
  • can be done while interrupted every 5 seconds by a toddler or quiet enough not to wake up a sleeping toddler on the other side of paper-thin walls.

Since forever, I've been using food as comfort/reward/mood changer/boredom breaker. In comparison to other options, it's fast, cheap and easily obtainable. Considering my rapidly slowing metabolism (helllooo, 40s!), it's high time to explore other options.

I'm currently using MeFi and Imgur for this purpose, but with my tendency to fall down the Internet hole, it's probably not the optimal solution.

What do you suggest?
posted by gakiko to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 80 users marked this as a favorite
I always think about how I should be buying Lush instead of chocolate cake. The prices seem so indulgent, but the products are gorgeous, appeal to the senses, and put me back as much as my binges do.
posted by cacao at 3:12 PM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

posted by amtho at 3:19 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sometimes when I have a spare moment I do my makeup. (I know, very thrilling, but I rarely have time to doll up and it's kind of just fun to play with pretty things.)

Go on certain apps on my phone, i.e. Cladwell (closet / outfit generating app), Pinterest, various life / money / health / period tracker apps. They are not absorbing enough to make me fall down a rabbit hole but I do enjoy planning my life a little instead of feeling I'm rushing back and forth always.

Deep breathing / meditation. I like doing about 60 seconds of deep breathing to calm down.

Spray some really comforting perfume on. I tend to do this at night and it has kind of replaced my late night snack as a end-of-day thing I do to relax.

Do a face mask / eye gel pad / whatever. I'm not a big believer in masks but the gel pads can take puffy eyes down and you're basically giving yourself a mini face massage or exfoliate which feels good.

Get a foot massager / back massager and just sit with that on for awhile.

ASMR videos, if you're into that.

Eating a very healthy snack like vegetables but just being very mindful and deliberate about the preparation, like slicing a cucumber with a nice fancy salt, or preparing some pineapple with mint and cayenne. After many years of giving myself junk food as a reward, it feels good to actually enjoy a snack on a deeper food appreciation level.

Napping, or getting very nice pillows and blankets and mattress so laying down for a half hour feels like heaven.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:20 PM on May 11, 2017 [11 favorites]

How about engaging a different sense rather than taste?
-- Light a candle that smells good to you.
-- Pet a stuffed animal or piece of fabric that feels cozy.
-- Listen to a song/album that brings you joy (and that you save for this purpose).
-- Look at a photo album or book of paintings you love.
-- Invent a ridiculous dance and do it.
posted by mcduff at 3:20 PM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Try tapering off with less-caloric food like gum and mints?

I used to use episodes of "Adventure Time" and "Steven Universe" (or any short show that you like) for this purpose.

Silly Putty or clay? It's like... food for the hands.

I usually look forward to going for a quick run.

Sometimes I save books or articles I know I'll enjoy and read them later to wind down.

Do a crossword or a Go problem.

Put on music and draw something.
posted by glass origami robot at 3:30 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Really nice smelling/feeling lotion, maybe?

You might try gum in different flavors. It's still calories but there's an ever increasing variety to try and one piece should last a while, unlike potato chips for example.

I think that the trick for this will probably be satisfying the senses that snacking does, apart from the sensation of fullness. Like, do you get pleasure from the preparation aspects and how it makes you take a break from other actions? Find something that requires a bit of setup. Is it a matter of different smells? Try aromatic things like candles or scented products. Is it about the sensation of self-care? Maybe pampering rituals like home pedicures or hair treatments. And of course if it's about chewing, there are chewable accessories out there for people who like to chew on things as a stim, in addition to gum and mints.
posted by Mizu at 3:30 PM on May 11, 2017

Yeah, gum. It's like food for your mouth but not your stomach.

Too bad they don't make cookie flavoured gum.
posted by GuyZero at 3:51 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I usually go for indulgence via scents (burning some scented candles or incense) or body care products (lotion, body butter, soaking in a bath with nice bath salts).
posted by celestine at 3:52 PM on May 11, 2017

I like to make myself a nice cup of tea. Maybe experiment with good-quality teas until you find one you really like, or have a variety on hand to match every mood.
posted by heatherlogan at 4:18 PM on May 11, 2017 [14 favorites]

Maybe keep a long list of friends you want to keep in touch with and write a long email or an actual letter...
posted by calgirl at 4:24 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

May not be necessary, but pick something up and put it back, or tidy something. Takes a few seconds. The cumulative effect can be moodlifting.
posted by carter at 4:29 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Really good sitcoms. There are maybe 5 billion of them on any of the streaming services at any given moment. Feel free to start with Arrested Development if you're just starting out
posted by General Malaise at 4:41 PM on May 11, 2017

Another thing is to switch to different foods - I personally really like prunes/dried plums, as passé as they are. The better quality ones have a great texture and are sweet in a really nice way. And they're sort of good for you. Just don't eat too many prunes. Also dates and turkish apricots.
posted by GuyZero at 4:47 PM on May 11, 2017

Technically this is still edible, but I second the suggestion of tea. Some warm, comforting herbal tea in a mug or teacup you really like can be very enjoyable.
posted by delight at 5:22 PM on May 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

You could try training yourself to snack on carrots, apples and even bowls of loose raw spinach. For me the urge is more to eat something, than what. I am hesitant to suggest gum. The flavor disappears too quickly and even after spitting it out I find there is a lingering plasticy taste that takes hours to go away. And then I do want to eat junk to get rid of the plastic taste and recapture the artificial sweetness.

In addition to a giant bag of carrots, I find exercise helps me combat cravings as well. Doesn't have to be much. It could be simple, could be just tidying up like carter suggested, but that gets you moving and that curiously can actually act as an appetite suppressent. Alternatively, you could buy a stationary bike or a treadmill and use these as much you comfortably can.

Or, take up a hobby like getting an adult coloring book or a doodling book like Sorry for the long link. I don't know how else to enter the address, but you get the idea, er, picture.
posted by Crystal Fox at 5:23 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

A quick stretching or yoga routine can be very pleasurable. Like this.

Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge, and pour yourself a glass of ice-cold water when you need a pick-me-up. It tastes a lot better than water from the sink. For a sensory treat use a glass glass and add ice cubes. The tinkling sound is very soothing.

Deep breaths: take a deep belly breath in, then close off your airway and hold it for 10 seconds before blowing it out. This creates a bit of back-pressure which stretches out your lungs in a pleasing way. Do two or three of these breaths in a row. I find these especially helpful when I'm feeling stressed and need something to help me recenter myself.

Brush and floss your teeth. Your mouth will feel pleasantly clean, and you won't want to mess it up by eating.

Bounce on an exercise ball. Just for fun. :)

Learn to Zentangle. Or color in a coloring book.

Crochet or knit. It is quiet, can be very meditative once you get a rhythm going, and it keeps your hands too busy to eat.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:23 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am a huge fan of applying super fancy lip balms/lipsticks. Like get yourself some Fresh Rose lip treatment from Sepohra and it will be a gateway drug to a quick and indulgent world of treats.
posted by cakebatter at 5:24 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mommastrong. It's exactly for you. and me. 15 minute core workouts lead by a doofy mom who will make you laugh, every day. Toddlers more than welcome. Also expect to see plenty of dirty laundry, her pet dog licking it's butt, and her kids whining about wanting a snack. Just like real life. $2 a month, proceeds go to her work with moms in prison. My wife and I are both fat, but have both lost two-three pants sizes just doing this workout fairly steadily and eating a little better.
posted by pomegranate at 5:31 PM on May 11, 2017 [18 favorites]

Stupid addicting iPhone games. (or Android, if that's your phone of choice). You just need the right game. That can be your next askme question :D
posted by cgg at 6:31 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is going to sound really strange, but one of the things that gives me great pleasure is to look at my hands and move them in what I think of as a "belly dance" motion. I like observing how all my joints move. I move my hands, my wrists and my elbows and I look at them.

Everyone has graceful hands and arms. Literally everyone. And for me personally, observing that beauty is extremely satisfying and pleasurable.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:22 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Mobile games or video games. Hot oil treat your hair, or a face mask, or a quick manicure.
If the toddler is awake: put on a dramatic or high energy song and belt along or dance or lip sync
If toddler is asleep: savasana or a nice long stretch in child's pose. Hot bath or shower. I love the headspace app for quick meditations.

I also love to roll out my back or neck with a foam roller. But ymmv.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:17 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe some Grinds and a quick walk around the block?
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:10 PM on May 11, 2017

Replace the food high with a physical high. I suggest stretches or yoga in which you concentrate on feeling each muscle you're working and /or something energetic like as much stationery jogging or jumping jacks as you can take without having any actual exercise goals in mind.
posted by tavegyl at 2:44 AM on May 12, 2017

Color therapy. A beautiful scarf or headband, one for every day of the week, some different textures, some luxurious metallic or sparkles. I like Buffs and pashminas, but a funky dollar bandana will do. Get some fabric paint and bedazzles and go wild.
Sometimes I enjoy the texture of silks or velvets or wools. Sometimes I wrap a scarf around my wrist to see it and feel it better.

Perfume is nice, but too much can be cloying. A spritz on the wrists can be brought up to the nose from time to time. Candles and scent diffusers are nice, if child-proofed.

Walking, stretching, yoga. Belly dance. Foot massage. Long, slow bubble baths (negotiated for uninterrupted time).

Noise therapy. Nature sounds, "elevator music," something to engage the mind. Taking walks outside and listening to birds. Making a pallet and listening to the wind in the trees.

Handcrafts. Crochet is my drug of choice, and I would keep a sturdy toddler-proof bin for small or sharp objects, but it does hit that "what am I doing with my time?" button. Bonus -- gifts for others, rather than a dusty stack of art objects that are forgotten as soon as they are completed.
posted by TrishaU at 3:31 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Along with the fresh veggies, when I'm losing weight I also go with pickled stuff: particularly to my taste are caper berries and pickled okra which Walmarts near me carry, but there is an entire universe of pickled vegetables from nearly every ethnic cuisine. Also, fancy cheeses and charcuterie (or even not so fancy) if you slice them paper-thin can be quite nice and low-calorie in moderation; the thing is to get the slices thin enough that they warm up to body temperature as soon as they touch your tongue.

(Watch out for sodium levels if that's an issue with the above suggestions, of course.)
posted by XMLicious at 4:14 AM on May 12, 2017

In my office, I have two ten pound dumbbells. When I crave stuff (I have a tendency to nibble things when I'm procrastinating, thinking, need a pause, etc.), I do three sets of ten bicep curls. I've been doing this since January, and even though 10 pounds is nothing and feels like a breeze (and I feel legit nice after the maybe three minutes this takes) my arms are no joke looking a little buff. I'm amazed. I thought I'd do this once and then the weights would gather dust, but now I wish I'd tried this sooner.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:27 AM on May 12, 2017

Go outside, even if just to pace around the yard a few times. In any weather and in light and dark.

nthing tea.

Browse through a fancy magazine or instagram (I like New American Paintings and the Quiltcon magazines).

Brush your hair, massage scalp.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:26 AM on May 12, 2017

Reading books is better for your mood than surfing the web and can also be done just about anywhere. I also have a toddler (and a school age daughter) and I like to have a Kindle book on the go, alternating between using the smartphone app during the day and then using my e-reader at bedtime. I like to listen to audiobooks in the car as well.

Reading books on your smartphone may sound like a strange idea but it has some benefits: you always know where your smartphone is, you're used to being interrupted while playing around on it, you get the instant gratification of buying new books whenever you want, it's doable in almost any light conditions, you can make the text as big or small as you like and carry any number of books with you, etc.
posted by tomcooke at 7:55 AM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

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