It’s not hunger, but you know that feeling that physically makes you want to eat something that is specifically going to make you deeply satisfied right at this very moment? That feeling stems from stress, mixed with a little anxiety and, possibly, some anger or exhaustion bordering on emotional meltdown thrown in for good measure. It is a complex condition easily and temporarily drowned with healthy or unhealthy food like cake, nachos drenched in melted cheese, chicken noodle soup, or -- as in my case – a large plate of chicken curry and rice with a tall glass of Diet Coke on ice.
And most of the time with bad comfort food, you know you're going to regret it -- you do -- but those few minutes of eating to deal with your delicate emotional or tired physical state are…JUST. SO. DAMN. GOOD.
I'm in my 40s and the way I eat for comfort has changed from when I did 10 or 20 years ago. I'm less reckless now. And, of course, what and how much I eat during trying times is determined by level of crisis, emotional exhaustion, and how much I am willing not to give a shit. That last category is one carefully developed after years of increasing levels of not giving a shit. It's an art.
By Tuesday of this week, I had found myself already drawn to comfort food several times: that’s stress. Sometimes I kept my shit together, sometimes I did not. A lady cannot be strong all the time. A lady can be at a long meeting where there are donuts and she is tired and so she eats the donut rationalizing that the tastiness will make her happy and the sugar will give her so much energy. That’s a hypothetical situation.
Stock photo of donut. Really.
So, I thought it would be good to walk you, my readers, through the Comfort Food Levels of Severity and What to Do. It’s a wobbly wire we walk. Let’s stay strong together! And as you can see from the chart below, the Comfort Food Levels are color coded by Threat Levels. Yes, I knew you'd appreciate that.
|Comfort Food Severity Level & What To Do|
|What's Happening?||Should I Eat Comfort Food?||And why is that?|
|A Fantastic Day. Good things are happening and I feel really positive about my life.||No||Choose healthy options and exercise. Now is when you have strength to rack up points in case you make a bad decision later when you're not feeling so great.|
|Nothing good, nothing bad.||No||You'll be tempted to hit the bad comfort foods because you're on neutral ground and you could go either way. But don't do it. Refocus.|
|I'm a Lady and It's My Lady Time||Obviously||Follow your Lady Instincts. But follow up with a walk, otherwise you will feel like lard.|
|I'm a Man and I Feel Like Eating a Giant Piece of Steak. And I Don't Know Why.||Sure||Ladies have Lady Time, you get Man Time. Follow up with a walk otherwise you will feel like lard.|
|General Bad Day. A few things might be off, nothing serious.||No||Look, we all have General Bad Days. They actually happen quite a lot. The thought of one bite of moon pie sounds pretty good. But you know that one bite leads to eating the entire moon pie, right? And you'll feel like lard afterward. Walk away from the moon pie. In fact, keep walking. Walking is good for you.|
|Really Bad Day. The shit has hit the fan (in some area of my life).||A Little||When I have days like this, I want a giant plate of creamy pasta and a large glass (or two) of wine. And this is so good, but so wrong. We are not at DEFCON 1. For a Really Bad Day, a luxurious meal is absolutely in order, but you don't have to eat crap. Eat good food (mind the portions) and have a glass of good wine.|
|The Worst Day. On this day, something horrible has happened and I am devasated.||Unsure||Exercising food judgement on The Worst Day is really tough. I'm not qualified to advise you what to do as I can barely get a grip on a day like this. Intellectually I know the best thing to do is take deep breaths and not make any rash decisions like, say, go through the Taco Bell drive thru. You will definitely feel like lard.|
|DEFCON 1. My/the world is ending.||Yes||You probably won't feel like eating, but you should. You need whatever nourishment you can get, and if you have some booze on hand, drink it. We're at DEFCON 1 for pete's sake!|