Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Comfort Foods vs Too Tasty Foods

I stared down my inner carnivore the other day and won. I so badly wanted the roasted chicken I was tearing off the carcass and putting in soup to bring to a friend, but I didn’t eat any. Didn’t even lick my fingers. But there’s no denying how tasty it looked.

It got me thinking about comfort food eating versus eating because something tastes good. I think there’s a difference.

I first need to clarify how I define binging. I don’t consider myself a binger, at least not in terms of eating uncontrollably or out of a need to satisfy some deep emotional need or pain. There are times when I eat for comfort, more food than I should have back in the day, but I don’t consider that “binging” because I know people who binge and they tell me binging is much more complex than simply needing a cup of mashed potatoes to soothe a bad day.

So there’s comfort eating, as I define it for myself, and eating because something tastes really good. I knew that chicken I was putting in the soup would taste good and I knew I could eat a lot of it, at least I used to be able to do that. Not sure I could eat much of it now without feeling sick, but the point is, I knew it would taste good. I had to consciously not eat it. I had to talk to myself about the reasons I didn’t eat chicken anymore, particularly store-roasted chicken with all its fat and salt. I had to get all “mom” on myself and say, “No, Lynn, you may not have that chicken.” I pouted a little, but I got over it because I knew it was the right thing to do.

That kind of chicken is what I call a “trigger food.” The term “trigger foods” means different things to different people. Bingers have trigger foods as do comfort eaters and people who eat something because it tastes good. The chicken I was cutting was something I used to eat in mass quantities because it tasted good. And when I say “eat in mass quantities,” I mean eating with the full realization that I’m eating, and enjoying every last bite, unlike binging in which the taste doesn’t matter and the binger often “wakes up” after eating mass quantities of food. This is how I make the distinction.

Ergo, the chicken incident reminded me that there are some foods I simply choose not to be around or have to be very careful when handling.

Kraft Macaroni ‘N Cheese, for instance. I LOVE the stuff. I don’t need it to comfort me, I just like the way it tastes. I especially like it reheated the next day. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. My stepsons made a batch of it the other day and I had to leave the room after it was made because it still is, after three years, a huge temptation for me. People on Weight Watchers, or most any “diet” plan, will say it’s “allowed,” that I can still eat mac ‘n cheese and stay within my points. True enough, but having a little mac ‘n cheese is like faking an orgasm. I either get the whole thing or what’s the point? It’s why I choose to stay away from the stuff (mac ‘n cheese, that is).

On the other hand, I find comfort in mashed potatoes and I continue to eat them because I have no problem limiting the amount I eat. Same is true with chocolate. Get me near Thanksgiving stuffing – and I’m talking about the REAL stuff with REAL butter, not the “fake” kind I make these days with chicken broth – and I’m out of control. I love the taste of real stuffing and I love eating it, but I can’t face limiting myself and so I choose not to eat it.

I’m finding the same thing happening with my new vegetarian/almost vegan diet, too. I LOVE the vegan sloppy joes I make. I could probably eat the entire 4 servings I make at one time. I seriously have to adjust the recipe to make one serving and see if that helps. I don’t want to not eat it. I don’t want to relegate it to the same “hands off” food as mac ‘n cheese and Thanksgiving stuffing. But I will if I have to.

I love food. I sometimes love some foods too much. These foods are my friends, though, for they teach me discipline. God help me, but they do.

8 comments:

  1. I hear you. I am half way towards my weight loss goal, and I have realized that until I am in maintainence, I cannot have snacks in the house. I don't mean chips or cookies. I mean "healthy snacks," like Laughing Cow low calorie cheese. I once ate an entire package of those little 30 calorie things. Same applies to veggie chips. Or 100 calorie packs of kettle corn. If it's a snack, it's a trigger and I will eat all of it because it's tasty. Now my "snacks" are for nutrition only, such as for energy before the gym. No snacking just to eat something tasty. I am not capable of doing that and staying within my calorie range.

    It's good to know that even after 3 years that you still face challenges, it makes me feel more normal. And like the willpower and skills I'm learning now actually are valuable and timeless.

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  2. What you said about having to remind yourself of why you don't eat chicken anymore really resonated with me. I think my binging/out-of-control eating happens because I turn off the sane inner dialog and allow the fat cells to lead the conversation.

    Since I'm still losing, I'm like Colleen - no triggers allowed - for the very same reasons. I'm still not skilled at determining if the food is for fuel or fun or frantic insanity.

    Thanks Lynn for continuing to share your journey!

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  3. Lynn,

    I love that opening line. Some days we win, some days we lose, right? Just so long as we win the majority of the time these food battles!

    Thanks for posting this. I 100% agree that there is a huge difference between comfort foods, trigger foods, and binging.

    I just had a realization this week that I probably shouldn't buy Baked Cheetos anymore. They always cause me to overeat (I hate 3 servings of them yesterday; had the WW flexies for it, but STLL, I should know better). And I certainly don't want them to also cause a binge.

    Binging for me is absolutely uncontrollable and I hate the lack of control I feel about the food, but it's like I cannot stop, I cannot fill the void, I cannot, cannot, cannot. Never have I been able to stop a binge the same day. I always tell myself during one, "OK - tomorrow is a new day, so get in all the good stuff while you can today!"

    Pasta is another trigger food for me. This stems from when I attempted the Core plan on WW and would begin to binge on whole wheat pasta.

    Now whenever I eat pasta, which isn't often, I only boil ONE serving at a time. If I cook 1/2 a box, I'll end up taking more than a serving and probably end up finishing everything I've cooked that same night.

    Sad that I'm still like this after nearly 3 1/2 years on WW, but at least I'm not alone! I just LOVE food; I always will. It's an addiction, and sometimes I find it to be (although I don't know for sure) a worse thing to be addicted to than cigarettes or alcohol. At least with those two addictions you can 100% limit them from your life.

    But food is a necessity. Even if I have a bunch of healthy stuff in my kitchen, the possibility is always there to start binging on it.

    Lesley

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  4. Hello Lynn! I just wanted you to know that you are such an inspiration to me. I'm at the same starting weight as yours so I know my journey will be long but I'm prepared and ready to get this weight off once and for all. I was looking through a friends stack of People magazines when I came across your article and I just had to log on to your site and find out more. You look amazing! I can't wait to post my 'after' pictures one day. Seeing how far you have come helps me realize that this IS possible so thank you for that. I'll be adding your blog link to mine so I can check in with you from time to time. I wish you nothing but the best. God bless.

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  5. Amen!! I couldn't agree with you more. I have been on this journey for 2 years and completely agree about the trigger foods. One of mine is cake - I am on a new team at work and as a great jesture bought me a cake for my birthday. No one understood why I just couldn't eat it. Out of pressure I took a piece back to my desk and then wrapped it in a napkin and threw it away. It is great to read your journey and know that I am not the only one who is thinking and going through the same things that you are! Thanks for sharing!

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  6. It is nice to see I am not the only one that feels like an addict around food. Good for you Dawn! I experienced the same peer presure at the office we had a going away party and I was going to attend until they mentioned they were serving Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting...my absolute favorite. I have been known to eat the whole cake in one sitting. I did not attend and then got various emails from thin people who kept telling me i could have gone and not partaken of the cake... i explained my situation and that to me that cake is the same as a drug to an addict but they could not understand that you could actually want a food that can hurt your health so bad that you could not pass it up.

    I find it hard to believe that people understand alcoholics and drug addicts when they want to stay clean, but a foodaholic they dont understand an usually use peep pressure to tell you a small bite wont hurt your diet. Little do they know how much damage a small bite can have.

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  7. "I had to get all 'mom' on myself..." I laughed when I read that because I do the same thing to myself, I just never thought to call it "getting all 'mom' on myself"!

    The one thing I've found that I love about cooking vegan is that I can adjust many recipes to make just one serving, which is especially nice for the "trigger" foods (now if only I could manage to make only one slice of bread, I stay away from bread because...well...you know.

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  8. just read a book recently that made such sense - it's not the calories (or points, or carbs) in a food that matter, its your HISTORY with that food.

    It doesn't matter that a serving of cookies is 80 calories, if you are going to eat the entire box - so, in essence, a serving of cookies for YOU is 800 calories...

    Bottom line - don't allow yourself easy access to foods you have a bad history with (and you know which foods they are!)

    In other words, you can have foods you like, but not foods you love... :)

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