Wednesday, October 27

Comfort Eating

I have been thinking about food a lot lately, not least because an awful cold has finally left me behind and I have my normal appetite back, and I am now eating more than toast and doritos on a daily basis. Yay!

I have been thinking particularly about comfort eating as a practice, and as a "disorder". This is largely because of aforementioned cold and eating a lot of junk food last week. I've never really understood why comfort eating is construed as always negative personally - for me taking comfort from food is a given, and I love nothing more than curling up with real stodge or sweet things when I'm having a down day. I don't understand why that is negative when it makes me happy - should I only eat food that leaves me completely indifferent instead? That's no fun.

I grew up in a single parent, working class household, and my dad Steve always worked shift patterns, so from when I was 13, I just used to eat whatever I could make myself. I never learnt to cook until the first year of university, though I knew how to sustain myself. I used to eat loads of processed foods, junk food and some really odd concoctions of my own making (one of which I still make now is a barbeque bean bake, which is essentially cheap sausages fried with onions, with baked beans stirred into and bbq sauce, then topped with mashed potato and baked in the oven. It's still my favourite comfort food dish, despite it's lack of any form of value!). Treats were McDonalds or cake from a bakery.

I left for university and met a lot of friends who already knew how to make amazing food. They introduced me to fruit and veg, good meat, proper bread and cake, and I loved eating this way. I stopped eating rubbish and I'm really happy to be a good cook now. I spent a long time trying to be just healthy - I think this was tied into feeling like I needed to be an "acceptable" fatty, who was at least healthy as some form of compensation for my unacceptability. I still cook well, and there are healthy treats I love, but I've also come to admit exactly how much I love junk food and comfort eating for the sake of it. I also feel that this part of my upbringing is part of me still, and I don't think I should be ashamed of this to appease people. Sometimes I'll cook a roast dinner for tea, sometimes I'll make something super fancy sounding (dinner on Monday was spaghetti with anchovy, chilli and garlic sauce, with garlic breadcrumbs and parsley garnish), sometimes it'll just be soup or pesto, and often it might be junk food. Last Sunday, my boyfriend and I ate an entire tub of Mackie's ice cream with toffee sauce - that was dinner. In the past we've also called lunch a box (or er two) of chocolate fingers dipped in cheap chocolate mousses. Sometimes we eat the food that you always wanted to when you were a child, but were never allowed to. Sometimes I eat breakfast for dinner. Sometimes it's chips and processed cheese sauce (processed cheese is my absolute childhood weakness - the more neon, the better), sometimes it's an entire pizza. The point being that it's fun, and I always think that food should be fun, and unruly, and oh so wrong-but-right at the same time.

I take a lot of issue with the "healthy eating" brigade, and sometimes I even have issues with HAES for the same reasons. I feel like too many foods are still made out to be bad for us, when in fact I find refusing to satisfy cravings to be much unhealthier in the long run. It's so much more liberating to allow yourself to eat the most excessive and luxurious combinations - just to let yourself go with it when you want it. Life is too short to spend it umm-ing and ahh-ing over calorie counts and too short to substitute out the double cream and roast potatoes you "shouldn't" eat.

And now... um, I'm hungry. /rant


  1. I love this post! I have extremely mixed feelings about food. I've always loved food, and to be honest, I've always eaten really, really well. And I'm still fat.. I grew up and we ate healthy food most of the time, treats were rare, and only chocolate if anything. For the longest time I wouldn't let myself eat any junk but then after moving out on my own I eat what I want. I let my body tell me what it needs like you, and sometimes it'll be chicken fingers and ice cream, or spinach salad and veggies. I'm slowly learning that food does not have a moral intrinsic value, but it's hard! It is working though, I feel so much better without the guilt surrounding food. I do admit that I am spoilt for lovely meals a lot of the time as my partner is a chef :) Anyway, sorry for the novel! But I just wanted to say that this was a lovely read and definitely something I can relate too :)

  2. I agree with you. Food should never be tied to guilt. It is not a moral dilemma. We eat when we're hungry and we eat what we feel like at the time. I love salads and veg and I also love junk food an I know what my body wants and what it needs. Too many years were spent never eating anything and not enjoying anything and I wasn't skinny anyhow. Now I just do what feels right and I feel good about me.