Last week I invited you to start taking a look at those foods that have become regular comfort foods for you, as well as the instances that you are most likely to "use" them (- and when I say "use", it's for a reason as we absolutely do use food or other substances as tools to change us from one way of feeling or being to another).
This week I will:
- Talk you through some of the most common comfort foods explaining why they are so common
- Give you some ideas for how to replace these and at what pace
- Discuss "why raw?" in this scenario and why raw foods should become the new comfort foods
- And ultimately help you proactively address any comfort eating issues you may have going on in a way that is practical, enjoyable and ultimately achievable.
There's a lot to cover and that's a lofty claim, so let's get to it!
I want to begin by revisiting one of my core philosophies around food, and that is that food, like everything in our universe, is comprised of energy. Just like us, each food, whether cooked or raw, has its own unique energy blueprint and when we choose a food, whether we realise it or not, we are choosing to bring the energy of that food into our body and consequently create some kind of state change or alchemy.
For most people this fact is totally unconscious. We simply reach for a food, eat and think no more about it unless it makes us feel especially ill or heavy. But for those who pay a little more attention it doesn't take long to realise that when we choose different foods we have different reactions - on every level.
To make this easier to understand and to fully "get" it, I'm going to discuss a few different foods now. These are ones that are most often cited as being comfort foods, and I'm sure you'll find at least one or two in here that will resonate with you. My hope is that by understanding how this works at a chemical and/or energetic level you'll be better informed and more aware of what's really going on when you pick a food, thus giving you the all-important perspective needed to break free from addiction or reliance on a particular food or any other debilitating substance.
Bread (and other wheat products)
Wheat is one of the most addictive foods of all, especially in the form of bread where it is often combined with salt and sugar - two other powerfully addictive substances. Wheat itself is an interesting one as it contains opioids - naturally occurring but ultimately numbing and sedative substances that are also highly addictive. This is why most people feel sleepy or a bit "brain dead" after eating toast, sandwiches, pasta or pizza - I'm sure you know what I'm talking about...
Energetically bread has a slow, comfy kind of energy about it. It doesn't exactly make you want to get up and sprint, does it? Coat it in butter and it's like going back into the womb... this is why "hot dripping toast" has become such a love affair for many. It's the ultimate hiding place - there's just nowhere else you want to be when you've got that messy, creamy, melting, chewy yet soggy mouthful having its wicked way with you!
Cheese seems to be a hard one to let go of for many, and this can often be put down to its not-so-obvious but actually very real salt content. Often it is not at all about the dairy, but instead about the salt that many people are reaching for.
Cheese also has a comforting energy, not least I imagine as it has been produced from "mother's milk", only not of our species, obviously. In fact any kind of dairy product is often eaten or drunk in a way that is used to relax, feel cosseted and generally slob out! Cheese is so gloopy and dense though, it's the one that is at the extreme end of the dairy range - it is fatty, chunky, salty, crumbly and feels nourishing on some level and yet the reality is that for most, if not all, cheese, as with all dairy, is very mucous forming, can be sickly and really doesn't serve us well at a cellular level. It really serves only to coat us inside and this includes our emotional awareness. For most people cheese begins and ends with taste and mouth feel - beyond that it's simply not a great overall experience.
Potatoes are pretty "tame" in many respects but they are eaten to "fill the gap" or make us feel heavier when our energy starts to lift or expand. When they're fried or baked in oil then they're even more extreme in their effect as cooked fats can really slow the body down as they are so much harder to digest and process (not to mention potentially toxic). The energy of potatoes is solid, complex (its starches are not ideal for our body, even when well cooked) and bland; so while it won't mollycoddle us emotionally so much, it will prevent us from thinking too much and being in a position to take a great deal of action - so if you've been trying to pursue some life changes but reaching for potatoes it may just be because you're trying to slow yourself down.
Cooked or raw there is still, for me at least, many things about chocolate that I feel are not helpful. Traditionally chocolate is marketed as being a luxury, treat or reward and has become a universally accepted and celebrated part of our life and world for these and other reasons. So it's not a surprise that millions across the world reach for chocolate come rain or shine! It is seen to be the perfect grown up panacea to life - something to use to celebrate a big event or heal a broken heart or anything in between - and because of the way it's wrapped in its lovely shiny decadent looking wrapper it comes in a very alluring and sexy package. Conventional cooked chocolate is a particularly addictive combination as it is dairy, cacao and sugar combined. We already know that dairy and sugar are not our health allies at the best of times (one gloops us up, the other makes us edgy) but cacao itself contains theobromine and caffeine, both stimulants, hence why we can use chocolate to sedate or uplift us depending on what aspect of it we emotionally choose to draw on. Talk about double-edged sword! As for raw chocolate, well, my experience has been that on one level it does indeed make me feel blissful, but on another level it throws me right out of alignment. I just can't perform the same. As alignment and connection are two of my most important values and I want and need a high output in my work, I find that even raw chocolate for me is not a food I want to eat often, other than once in a blue moon.
All alcohol can be addictive, that much is no secret, but wine seems to be seen as possibly the most acceptable tipple of them all, especially among women or co-habiting couples. The thing about alcohol is that it's seen to be a socially "cool" drug and there can actually be pressure to partake, and yet the bottom line is that alcohol in and of itself is just plain unhealthful to say the least. (It's the grapes in wine that have the health properties not the alcohol!). Of all the substances listed above, wine is one of the most insidious and having a glass of wine every night after work can be one of the easiest and most debilitating habits to get into, especially if you are serious about making big things happen in your life. It literally and figuratively takes you "out of your head" - and when you're out of your head there's no one in the driving seat. When this happens the only place you now can go is wherever you let the alcohol take you.
How to Replace or Upgrade
If you feel ready to put comfort eating behind you it's important to bear a couple of things in mind.
The first is that most of us are not great at giving up comfort overnight, and the second is to know that there will be an approach that is more appropriate for you, depending on the way you are wired.
The best first step I have found is to determine whether you are the kind of person who, once their mind is made up, can simply "not do" something anymore. So for instance, if you feel you can simply quit your comfort foods of choice without issue, then you would fall into what I'll affectionately call the "hardcore" category!
If, on the other hand, you are more emotionally driven and just know that if the comfort food is taken away you will really struggle, then you fall into what I'll just as affectionately call the "softcore" category.
For the hardcorers among you your mission moving forward will be to get clear as soon as possible on where your focus is going to go instead. Once you've removed those foods from your life, what foods are going to take their place and what activities/hobbies/pursuits also? When these foods are gone you'll have a lot of extra time and energy on your hands and so you'll need to start thinking about what you're going to do with it, so that you don't revert to old behaviours through lack of options.
For the softcorers (which is what I was) often the most appropriate approach moving forward is one of two things, depending on how entrenched your comfort eating habits are. The first is to upgrade your food choices. So for example if fries and cheese are your things, then you would potentially upgrade to boiled potatoes rather than fried and unpasteurised cheese instead of pasteurised (goats rather than cows ideally) so that you still have your potatoes and cheese but in much cleaner, less addictive packages. Providing you stay mindful around this you will find that it gets easy to let these foods go completely in time if you wish to do so.
The second approach is to replace the foods with other non-edible treats that will still bring the comfort or thrill that you seek but that don't do it through food. Some examples might be: Upping your self-care game (new hairstyle, painting your nails, a deep tissue massage, a new daily ritual of a hot aromatherapy bath etc.); going to new places; doing things you've always wanted to do but have never got around to; curling up on the sofa with a blanket, good book or movie; journaling to let your emotions out in an honest, freeing way.
These are just a few ideas, but I wholly recommend that you draw up your own list and you will also likely find it especially useful to go back to your original list from week one. When you have that, your next step is to list, next to each food and emotion, the activity that you are going to do instead, so you have a ready reference guide like no other!
So Why Raw?
With all of the above said, it may be clearer as to why raw foods can be helpful here, at least in terms of overcoming the more addictive aspects of emotional eating and certain comfort foods, however, there is a flip side that we absolutely need to address before moving forward.
As many of you will know, the more raw you eat, the more raw you can feel emotionally! By removing those cooked comfort foods you can leave yourself feeling vulnerable and "alone" without the hug of chocolate, or the numbing of toast, or the airlifting of wine! So going raw in and of itself is by no means enough. It can actually exacerbate existing emotional issues and make them feel even more intense than before - ugh! The solution here is to get pro-active. The bottom line is that if you are no longer hiding under the food duvet you need to come out and play, and so this means addressing whatever it is that you were trying to escape from in the first place.
And while I fully recognise that this is easier for some people than others, or easier in some situations that others, it is, as I say, the bottom line. There's simply nowhere else to go.
I feel that life is too short to spend it under the duvet, quite frankly. Now and again, fine, we all need duvet moments! But to live your life that way? What a waste and a shame that would be.
There's so much more for you to do, be, have and experience... drugging yourself won't be an option when you figure out what it is that you want to do, be, have and experience in this lifetime.
Big stuff I know, but there's the truth of it. This is why raw foods in time will become your new comfort foods as they will support and ensure that you can make your dreams come true. And there's far more comfort to be had from THAT realisation than the never-ending escapism that most people opt for. At least you now know that you have a choice, and it's a very real and exciting one!
If you'd like to read more about comfort eating and specifically about how to start doing the emotional work then click here to read a very in depth piece that will make it entirely possible and joyful for you to get on the road to feeling fully awake, alive and on track with LIFE!
© 2012 Karen Knowler WOULD YOU LIKE TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR ON YOUR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Karen Knowler, The Raw Food Coach publishes "Successfully Raw" - a free weekly eZine for raw food lovers everywhere. If you're ready to look good, feel great and create a raw life you love get your FREE tips, tools and recipes now at www.TheRawFoodCoach.com.