What exactly is comfort food? Most of the time it’s something we remember being made with love.
The types of food each person considers as comfort food may vary widely. However, it’s interesting that many from the same family will agree on what comfort foods are for them.
Why? Comfort food is many times a familiar meal, something that Mom or Grandma made often. It provides a sense of nostalgia. It’s probably conducive to a specific culture or tradition that a person grew up in.
It is food that is easily prepared, flavorful, high in calories, carbohydrates and sugar content. It’s called good old down home cooking.
Because of all these elements, comfort food provides a feeling of emotional satisfaction and well-being. It’s like falling into a vat of love.
Filling The Void
Is it any wonder, then, that when we need to fill an emotional void, the first thing we think of is fixing a meal like Mom used to make or whipping up a batch of Grandma’s sugar cookies?
As the level of emotional, financial, relational and work-related stressors increase, so does our consumption of the high caloric comfort foods we feel like we can’t live without.
It’s almost like we’ve done away with Grandma, even though she’s be gone for more than 20 years, if we don’t have her fruit cake for Christmas. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without the foods that mark our family legacy.
Not only do we feel we need comfort foods during celebratory times, but we want the things Mom made when we were having a bad day or when we were sick. When we need to be pampered, we fall back on those neural pathways established before we can cognitively remember.
Many of our feelings about food come from childhood but, some also come as an adult when we are around good company, conversation, mood and occasions that are enjoyable.
When everything is upbeat and positive, we remember the food. Just duplicating the meal seems to bring back that environment.
Comfort food definitely has emotional associations, which makes it more difficult to turn our backs on.
High In Carbs
Comfort foods are laden with high carbohydrate and sugar content. This temporarily boosts serotonin levels. When the temporary feeling wears off, we seek out that food again so we can feel good again. We repeat the cycle again and again, thus increasing the girth around our waist.
Seeking comfort is an innate, built-in response. We seek comfort from certain foods because of our experiences with it. We expect sugar cookies to make us feel good because when Grandma made them and we ate them, they made us feel good.
In addition, we may fix the same foods for our grandchildren because we want them to have the same feeling of love we had when we ate them at Grandma’s house.
The difficulty is that comfort foods, because of their traditionally high carbohydrate content, become something we continually go to in order to get our comfort fix.
It doesn’t seem bad in the moment but, in the long-run of using these foods as our counselor, we rack up quite a bill that we pay for with our poor health.
Obesity is now at epidemic proportions in the United States with 68 percent of Americans overweight or obese.
Comfort food has been said to be one of the contributing factors to this, especially easily obtainable fast comfort food such as hamburgers, French fries and doughnuts. All are very available and low priced on value menus.
Our lifestyle, which is bereft of physical activity, is also a major contributor. We park ourselves for hours in front of a computer, watch television, play video games and essentially sit away most of our life.
It all stems back to one thing—we are stressed. We don’t know how to deal with our emotions. We try to eat away our depression, fear, loneliness, anger, frustration, tiredness, pain and low self-esteem, but it only makes it worse.
We know the answer is the Comforter, the One who is able to wipe away every tear. Instead, we go to the physical things we can see, hear, feel, touch, smell or taste. We want what we consider is real and yet, in the final analysis, there is only One who is real truth.
In Him lies the answer to every question we’ve ever had. In Him lies complete healing of our body, soul and spirit.
If we want something real, we need to try the One who made everything. Even if He’s Someone you’ve known for a long time, let Him lead you gently into understanding more about yourself.
After all, He created your body. He does understand. Sometimes we think He is too removed to understand our problems.
No, the opposite is true, He understands our problems all too well. We just don’t want to listen to His real solutions.
It might mean giving up something we’ve always run to, something that has been a very quick and easy, but very insidious fix.
Rethink Comfort Foods
Rethink the comfort foods, Mom used to make. Can you make a healthier version? Can you establish a new legacy, a new neural pathway for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that will change the course of your family’s legacy?
We have the power, with God’s help, to do just that. A generation of health-conscious adults can begin to create a better tomorrow today.
What exactly is your family’s comfort food? You can be the gatekeeper. You get to decide what foods your family will remember as made with love. What will it be?
What type of comfort food will you make with love and leave as your legacy?
Teresa Shields Parker is a wife, mother, business owner, life group leader, speaker and author of Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor and Sweet Grace Study Guide: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Overcome Sugar Addiction. Get a free chapter of her memoir on her blog at Teresa Shields Parker.com. Connect with her there or on her Facebook page.