297 Days ’til 40: Comfort Food – When is it Okay?

30 Apr

Food is the most primitive form of comfort. ~ Sheilah Graham

“Comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” ~ Song of Solomon 2:5

Never eat more than you can lift. ~ Miss Piggy

Comfort Foods….. we all have them.  Some people turn to chocolate, others to warm bread right out of the oven.  How about cookies or, my personal favorite, Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream?  We can turn to pies, candy bars, licorice, bacon cheeseburgers, and the like.  Sometimes we want oatmeal and pancakes and hot tea.  We hit our point of emotional overload and there is something about the right food at the right moment that grounds us and somehow rejuvenates us enough to continue to on.

I am a firm believer of comfort foods, in balance.  There are individuals who live lives that are stressful on a daily basis.  Consumption of unhealthy comfort foods daily or multiple times a day could have serious repercussions on one’s health.  Therefore, moderation is key.  If an individual just had a horrific breakup and needed a few weeks of comfort food, along with comfort food on the occasional day that is laden with relationship reminders, that is okay.  In fact, in those instances comfort food can serve a critical purpose in assisting an individual in their ability to maintain their lives and function in society even after emotional trauma.

I personally find myself craving comfort foods during times of stress and during times of relief or celebration.  During those moments there is a strong food tie-in as though the presence of the comfort food is necessary to validate the overall presiding sentiment of the moment.  There are times when I just want to stuff myself until I feel full (not a good habit).  Somehow the fullness makes me feel less empty inside.  This reminds me of a quote by Mitch Hedberg, “I like rice.  Rice is great if you’re hungry and what 2000 of something.”

What about you?  Do you use comfort foods?  Have you found moderation in your life?  When are comfort foods okay and when should we steer clear of them?

Today, 297 days ’til 40, I am thankful for comfort foods.  I keep them in a healthy place in my life and utilize them in appropriate ways.  My hope for you is that you always find comfort where and when you need it, in healthy ways.




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56 responses to “297 Days ’til 40: Comfort Food – When is it Okay?

  1. cinquecentoproject

    April 30, 2012 at 00:12

    Due to the emotional eating habits I have, I am trying to replace comfort foods with comfort rituals – like a long run or a bath, or spending my evening reading a book and leaving the dishes in the sink when I need comfort. I still gain a lot of pleasure from food, and certainly hot soup or tea is comforting on a cold morning/night or when under the weather. Moderation is key, though, right?

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 16:11

      What a really good point! I may have to write on other ways to find comfort. I think that makes a big difference. Though I would be likely to read every night and have dishes out my front door! 🙂 (If you don’t believe me, ask my partner!) Moderations is definitely key!

      • cinquecentoproject

        April 30, 2012 at 22:00

        LOL – reading every night…yea, I have to employ moderation on that front, as well. If I don’t read for 1-2 days, though, I get stir crazy in the brain, so I pretty much have to make time for it.

  2. 1smiles

    April 30, 2012 at 00:35

    When we did foster care and had a child unable to sleep… I’d make them warm, buttery cinnamon toast. It smelled wonderful and was rich and sweet and warm. After the toast and gentle talk and a hug, they always slept safely tucked into a warm bed.

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 16:09

      Oh that sounds so good! My mom used to make it for me as a child and I loved it. 🙂

  3. ammiblog

    April 30, 2012 at 00:40

    I don’t really know what comfort food is anymore. When I was in treatment for cancer, I could only eat ‘comfort’ foods, like mashed potatoes and mac & cheese, ice cream and pudding. Then during infusion chemo I lost my urge for chocolate and bacon. There are food moments that I like, take comfortable pleasure in like a fried egg sandwich with the yolk runny and I love my own turkey gravy. I love going to the farmers’ market to buy local fresh veggies, and then home to make soup or salad depending on the season. And on a very rare occasion, I stop by the bakery and get an eclair. This taste like childhood. . .sweet comfort.

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 16:09

      Wow, interesting point that comfort foods may change as life circumstances/ tastes change. I love fresh eclairs from a bakery! I also think it is wonderful that you buy healthy fresh ingredients and make your own food. Losing the urge for chocoalte and bacon? How did you manage? Did you get it back?

  4. charlesmashburn

    April 30, 2012 at 00:47

    I am a firmm believer in “all things in moderation”.
    Great post (again)! Keep up the good work!

  5. leannerichard1

    April 30, 2012 at 00:50

    Warm white rice with lots of salt and butter… that’s what I want when I’m sick (in body or spirit).
    I also find cooking a comfort.
    I don’t moderate myself very well so I have about 25 pounds to lose – I grew up with the “clean your plate” rule and I feel it’s my obligation to finish whatever container of food is in front of me : )

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 16:07

      I love almost anything with butter on it! 🙂 Yes, I also grew up with the clean your plate rule, something that I still have not managed to break. So, the way I handle it now is to get a smaller plate with smaller portions!!!

  6. troismommy

    April 30, 2012 at 00:52

    One of my biggest comfort foods is chocolate. I admit, I do NOT always eat it in appropriate servings or as you said, “utilize them in appropriate ways.” LOL

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 16:06

      Another chocolate lover! Ah yes, moderation is not five bars in one day…. even though that may sound good at the time! 🙂

  7. streepie

    April 30, 2012 at 00:59

    I also do have comfort foods – and they cover a wide range, although nothing beats chocolate. Comfort foods are not necessarily unhealthy (like good old-fashioned homebaked sourdough bread, or home made lentil soup), some of them stem from childhood (like rice pudding) – and all have their time and place. I think that all foods are allowed, as long as one eats in moderation, and as long as one eats a variety of foods. And yes, there are times when one turns to food to deal with emotions. However, if this happens on a regular basis, then there is something very wrong, and the underlying issues should be resolved.

    And I believe that making the comfort food (e.g. biscuits or cake) yourself, instead of simply buying it, makes it even more satisfying (and healthier)

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 16:03

      Wow, LOTS of people have mentioned chocolate (no surprise!) I LOVE bread and soup as comfort food too….. good point about making it yourself… it also allows for delayed gratification to set in and it may be that you would eat slightly less (or maybe not) 🙂

  8. seakist

    April 30, 2012 at 01:04

    When I’m upset, I usually don’t eat much. Last summer a stupid doctor scared me and I lost over 10 pounds.

    For me, the “comfort” foods are more like “celebration” foods. I always overdo it on the holidays and eat things I normally don’t. And I just got married a few months ago — many other couples took us out to celebrate, so it was a lot of late night eating too. It feels good to get back on a normal eating schedule. I feel so much better.

    I think everyone deserves a treat now and then, whether it’s for comfort, for celebrating or just because they haven’t had it in awhile. But definitely don’t overdo it or it could wreck havoc on your health.

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 16:02

      Such a good point that when we are eating healthy we really do feel much better. I think many are prone to overdo things during the holidays…. human nature, I suppose.

  9. B.E.S.T.

    April 30, 2012 at 02:01

    Comfort food is something we definitely need sometimes exactly as you say, during stressful times. One of my favourite stress food is chocolate. In my case, i lived for 4 months in Japan and, since i didn’t have a lot of money with me and i knew that chocolate was crazy expensive in japan, i brought some with me. I have to say that during those long long days with small lunches due to money saving, having chocolate with me definitely helped me out to keep calm and satisfied.

    On the other hand, when i’m back home, i tend to be quite strict with comfort food and to treat it like an “emergency Food” in order to keep my daily calories under control… I think that sometimes, the idea of having some comfort food, without actually eating it can help a little bit anyway…

    what do you think?

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 16:01

      Wow, what an interesting experience you must have had in Japan… and how hard on a limited budget! I also think keeping comfort food as emergency food is a great strategy (as long as it is really there for safety and not daily consumption!!1)

  10. Lucianus Mauricius

    April 30, 2012 at 04:31

    I used to have my favorite comfort food, and that was a two double cheeseburgers, large fries and a coke, chicken Mcnuggets and apple pie. McDonald was not far from me and every-time I felt down eating was the pick-me-up of choice. Today I’m the opposite, I don’t eat, almost at all, but I crave sweets lake a madman, I guess for some reason I never stopped craving something unhealthy. The thing about comfort food is that is just like drugs, it alleviates the symptoms temporarily, yet we become addicted to eat and the outcome is always weight gain, which in turn, makes us feel more depressed than ever. I should know, I’m 5’8″, and I used to weigh 180 lbs, and now I weigh 138 lbs.

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 15:58

      Wow, I would probably have loved that comfort food just like you. I am so impressed with your weight loss – what an amazing job! What do you eat now? How do you balance it all? I am shorter than you, but weigh the same after just losing @ 20 pounds….I do eat and have found that the key is healthy foods and moderation….. it has been a very good experience for me. 🙂

      • Lucianus Mauricius

        May 1, 2012 at 06:37

        The key was starting to drink water instead of coke, 7up or pepsi all day long and eat little bags of anything they sell at Walgreens. I used to hate the taste of water, my doc tried for years to get to drink at least a couple of glasses a day. Where I live now is much hotter so obviously I was dehydrated, plus I smoke a lot, so I started drinking a bottle of water, than two, and so on, and now I’m up to 4 liters of water a day, which has made a lot of difference. Also, I eat very processed foods. Don’t get me wrong I love my gyros and my pizzas and so on, but most time I’m just eating sandwiches I make myself and soup in the evening instead of dry foods.

  11. writerwannabe763

    April 30, 2012 at 05:20

    Foods that give me comfort are ones eaten with friends and family…it can be a special occasion or just a Sunday dinner, or perhaps a barbeue..but the comraderie felt during the time spent with these people make the food somehow more delicious…..Diane

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 15:56

      Great point! I also love food with friends and family… and I LOVE a good barbecue!

  12. narf77

    April 30, 2012 at 05:34

    I think I was an abject hedonist in a past life when it comes to comfort food. I have thought about it long and hard (food being my one true downfall) and think it has to do with food being the very first thing that ties us in to our place in society. Everything that we do from when we are born to when we die seems to be tangled up with some sort of ceremony…each year we have holidays that we spend with our families (whether we like it or not ;)) and each holiday is laden with food. No-one craves water when they are feeling emotionally brittle so it can’t be because food is one of our primal/base needs. I too arrived at the idea that food fills you more than physically and have spent a fair portion of my life learning that physically full doesn’t equal emotionally full. I think its all about sharing the load and when you are emotionally and mentally twisted to the point of breaking, whats the odd calorie between friends when the alternative is too bleak to even contemplate? The problem comes when food is tied into profit.

    Our overweight society is more to do with dieting and the massive profit generating diet industry than anything that we choose to put into our mouths. Give us a few more years of media induced eating disorders and some of us long suffering women are going to stand up and say “Enough is enough!” No-one ever craved a bowl of carrots when they lost their job…we associate these “forbiden” foods with comfort because we are being iresponsible and childish whenever we over indulge and are thowing caution to the wind allowing us to forget about our problems for a while and feed our inner child who often doesnt get heard much in the hustle and bustle of day to day life. We wouldn’t feel guilty if we weren’t constantly being told that we SHOULD feel guilty. We might stop at a bag of doughnut stress relief if we didn’t feel so guilty about it and we end up overindulging thanks to guilt. Comfort food isn’t really food at all…its a way to abrogate our responsibilities for a while and return to simpler less stressful times when we were rewarded with something pleasurable for doing something right. Isn’t it funny how we return to those early lessons in life whenever we are challenged by something stressful? We need to stop syphoning guilty feelings from the media and applying them to our own situations. Media + consumerism does NOT = happiness.

    Cheers for the excellent thought provoking post. I might have to start contributing towards your bandwidth if I keep posting large comments like this 😉

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 15:55

      Such great points, and very philosophical! And you are so correct, food seems synonymous with celebration/ rewards/ etc… which is not always a good thing. Yes, I also think that the weight issues today have a lot to do with a diet industry that does not work – that and more fast foods as oppposed to healthier foods, more fake sugars and fats instead of the real thing…. all are not good…. and the media messages are awful! I am glad that many countries are now regulating the BMI of models, but at the lowest healthy level (18.5) – imagine if all models were forced to be a healthy weight of at least a 22-25 BMI… my would that help teenagers!

      I love your comments, keep them coming! 🙂

      • narf77

        April 30, 2012 at 23:33

        Cheers! I was starting to worry about filling up your bandwidth…issues like the diet insustry setting people up to fail and live a life spent following fad diets is a pet peeve of mine. My sister went to Jenny Craig 3 times. The first time she had 5kg to lose (I couldn’t even see where she had to lose it… inside her head I think…) and then she put on 10kg after she finished…she went back…same deal…then she put on 20kg and now she is grossly overweight and spends her life in perpetual guilt feeling like she is a worthless human being because the media throws pictures of gorgeous young things at us every day leaving constant impressions that we have to be impossibly beautiful, incredibly youthful and completely compliant to be desirable! I say give a man who wants to “own” a woman like that a blow up rubber doll and be done with it! We don’t need this sort of pressure when we women already put ourselves under an incredible amount of pressure these days. Working wife…working mum…gym junkie teacher taxi driver…we don’t give ourselves the kudos that we deserve and the media is feeding the diet industry to groom the girls of tomorrow into being compliant mindless cash cows that they can milk repeatedly. Its terrifying how easy it is to create a fad these days…social media is amazing for many things and makes our world a much more accountable place but for young people it can direct their minds to places that when we were children, we just could’t go. Ok, enough frothing at the mouth… off for that first cup of tea to regain my mental alacrity! 🙂 have a fantastic day leading our young minds of tomorrow and doing what you do towards helping people to think about their place in the world.

        • 400daystil40

          May 1, 2012 at 18:31

          It sounds like your sister had an awful time- my partner experienced almost the same…. dieted right up the scale. And, as you say, then the guilt gets worse and the self-esteem plummets more….. not easy. I really do wish that there would be laws requiring all models to be at least average size in the USA – that would be size 12 for a woman! (as opposed to the size 0 or 1 they currently are).

          • narf77

            May 1, 2012 at 23:29

            In the US clothing sizes are actually listed as less than they are here so our size 10 is your size 14. How ridiculous is a society that needs to have someone wearing size 0…like I saw someone comment on a post once when they were talking about the show “Beauty and the Geek” (which I have never watched but the premise is obviously in the name…) when one of the “Beauties” was talking to her respective Geek about her clothing size and told him that she was a 0 and he said “How can you be a 0…that would mean that you don’t exist!”…He might not be a beauty but I dare say he would be the brains in that relationship 😉 I personally gave up dieting this year after my mother died. I took up eating nutritional food and minimising processed food and walking the dog every day and have lost 9kg since January so that can only go to tell you that the diet industry doesn’t work! I am not trying at all and I am no longer hungry, tired, craving anything or depressed. I don’t feel guilty at all if I decide to eat a second helping of anything and I am learning what hunger really is without having to follow someone elses tailor made program to tell me when I am allowed to be hungry. Unlike everyone else I am NOT going to be writing a diet book! 🙂

          • 400daystil40

            May 1, 2012 at 23:48

            Maybe you should write a non diet book??? 😉

          • narf77

            May 1, 2012 at 23:55

            lol…too busy living 😉

  13. jannatwrites

    April 30, 2012 at 07:18

    I’m glad you are able to keep comfort foods in a healthy place. Unfortunately, I’m not the best at the moderation thing (especially with chocolate.) I started taking a walk around the building at work when I feel the urge to snack. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 15:52

      Yea, moderation can often be a challenge – I LOVE your strategy of walking when you want a snack!

  14. handstitch

    April 30, 2012 at 08:30

    Chocolate and ice cream. I can stuff myself with them one day but won’t touch them for months. Everything in moderation. I find it the time I am craving for them usually it’s the time I am most stressed out. It’s how our brain works…a sign to say I must slow down, come up for air…At least that’s how my brain and hormone work together…it’s my story and I’m sticking to it 😀

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 15:48

      Yes!!! I must admit that ice cream is my great weakness… I have been on a health food kick since January… which has meant no ice cream since then… but I could make my own…. hmmm…

  15. Colin

    April 30, 2012 at 10:51

    I actually go to opposite extreme. When I am stressed I become so physically anxious I can’t eat. My comfort foods are reserved when I am happy.

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 15:46

      I have also experienced this…. strangely, sometimes I eat when I am stressed and sometimes I refuse… depends on the type of stress…..

  16. kokorimbaud

    April 30, 2012 at 10:53

    When I think about comfort foods, the first thing coming to my mind is “why does it have to be unhealthy?”. I would not consider a couch that hurts my back to be comforting, so why do I do the same with unhealthy foods?
    Eating things we know aren’t good for us is not going to make us feel good (with the single exception of dark chocolate, maybe …), so why do we insist on calling them comfort foods? A comfort should surely be something that improves my (at the time of need) rather poor quality of life, and fatty, salty, sugary, whatever-your-poison-is foods are very unlikely to do that.
    I think we need to re-train ourselves to think differently and crave “good” foods for comfort, foods that actually improve our well being.
    That being said, there’s nothing better than fried chicken and a cheesy movie when I’m a bit low …

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 15:45

      Such a good point! Yes, why on earth can’t I find comfort in a carrot? I must say, I would gladly join you for a cheesy movie and fried chicken (I LOVE fried chicken!!!)…. But, alas……. I will have baked chicken and a potato…… or some new version of healthy comfort food… can one find comfort in rice cakes??? 😉

  17. viveka

    April 30, 2012 at 12:22

    I’m one of those that .. don’t eat when I’m excited or in love .. and that stuff myself when I’m feeling down or bored>

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 15:44

      I think eating due to boredom is an easy trap!

      • viveka

        April 30, 2012 at 16:28

        Yes, it’s …. very much so.

  18. Gluten-free Medley

    April 30, 2012 at 15:00

    Chocolate is my “go-to” comfort food. Just a bite or two of deep, rich dark chocolate and I can take on the world!!

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 15:41

      Yum! And if you can just take a bite or so and go that is amazing… I think the harder thing is for people who eat a bar or two —- large bars!!! 🙂

  19. The Quiet Borderline

    April 30, 2012 at 16:10

    Very true. All in moderation.

    I think mine has to be some double chocolate brownie ice cream. Like the Ben and Jerry’s one.

    If it’s winter. Chocolate does the trick for me!

    Great post.

    • 400daystil40

      April 30, 2012 at 16:11

      Yum! 🙂

      • The Quiet Borderline

        April 30, 2012 at 17:36


  20. Paws To Talk

    May 1, 2012 at 00:35

    That is great you can enjoy comfort food without feeling too guilty. We always feel self-conscious when we eat too many treats. Those bacon-flavored ones are too good to put down.

    Bella and DiDi

    • 400daystil40

      May 1, 2012 at 18:22

      Yes!!! MMMMM Bacon! Yes, one of my comfort foods is a bacon cheeseburger – care to join me????

      • Paws To Talk

        May 1, 2012 at 18:42

        *Drool* We’re there! 🙂
        Bella and DiDi

  21. sued51

    May 2, 2012 at 17:58

    Another great post! I had something along the same lines I was going to write about…I’ll be sure and pingback to you for the inspiration!

  22. Spider42

    May 3, 2012 at 20:49

    Oh man, I know what you mean but I have a tendency to overdo it so I’m trying to not do comfort food – for a while anyway (or until the stress is too unbearable) because I’m weary of getting into the habit of eating when I stress. Used to be a huge problem for me.

    BUT thats an individual thing, please continue to enjoy all those wondrous goodies! 😉

    • 400daystil40

      May 3, 2012 at 21:01

      I can be the same way – I understand… and I have this awful habit… once I start, I cannot stop… there is no moderation so I am working hard to stay on healthy food too.

      • Spider42

        May 3, 2012 at 21:08

        Cheers to sticking with it! 😉


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