Some come to mindfulness and mindful eating with a goal of eliminating comfort eating from their lives. It doesn't take a big leap to see how making a really rigid goal out of this intention can become another form of punishment and a target for rumination and regret. It’s completely normal human behaviour to sometimes turn to food to see if it will lighten an unpleasant mood. What can be a problem is when eating is our only and overused strategy for making ourself feel better .
What our alternative strategies might be is a whole topic for another day, but there is another factor that we can bring into play. We can experiment with, and really pay attention to how the foods we choose for comfort make us feel.
We might habitually turn to something sweet, crunchy or creamy to do the job, but one some days might we be better served by something warm and brothy, or bland and chewy?
There is a beautiful piece by chef Tamar Adler in yoga journal on bringing balance to comfort food. She suggests (and I agree) that it isn’t wrong to seek comfort from your food, but that our comfort food should live up to it's name and deliver on making us feel "good" again.
In yoga and at our tables, to bring comfort does not mean to suffocate difficulty but to smooth its passage. It implies not that we feel better momentarily, only to feel worse again soon, but that we find balance. If we choose to look at eating for comfort as a path and practice—not an anesthetic from which we awake in pain but something enduring that leaves us better equipped to deal with future problems—then in troubled times, we will turn to foods that help over the long term.
If you’d like to read the full article and accompanying recipes, it’s available over on the Yoga Journal website: Comfort, Redefined: What if eating feel-good food actually made you feel good? Tamar Adler