Even though our Instagram posts, Snapchat stories, and Facebook albums might show the highlight reels of our lives, there needs to be the "lows" of life to really appreciate those "highs." Everyone copes differently with different stressors, and as college students and young adults, we are constantly being introduced to new stressors as we venture off into the world of independence. Responsibilities, debt, marriage, divorce, death, injury, job(s), school, health status; all of these things can be sources of stress. The way we deal with that stress is significant in determining how we can overcome obstacles in our lives.
While some use drugs, alcohol, exercise, sleep, shopping, or binge-watching Netflix to temporarily relieve stress, it is no surprise that many turn to food. Especially in times of loneliness, or feeling empty, many find themselves revisiting the pantry multiple times a night to curb these uncomfortable feelings with comfort foods.
While ice cream every now and then is great, if you are still eating a pint a night a week after your boyfriend broke up with you, that's a problem. Comfort foods aren't inherently bad, but everything comes in moderation. When we find ourselves binging on these types of foods, our taste buds are the only things satisfied. Our bodies don't need these empty calorie foods, and that's when we see the weight start to add on.
Everyone feels lonely sometimes. You could be in a crowded room and still feel alone, or be sitting in your apartment feeling lonely. Instead of learning to cope and embrace that loneliness, and be okay with being alone with ourselves, many find that far too uncomfortable and empty. That's when we see signs of depression and emptiness set in and, before you know it, you are halfway through a box of cookies and a pint of ice cream with a pizza on the way.
One way to avoid turning to food to find your comfort is to find another way to release your discomfort. Go on a walk, listen to music, call a friend, read a book, find company in things that are actually good for you and your body. Food should be thought of as fuel; what we eat is what will get us through our day. If you filled your car with water instead of gas, your car wouldn't go anywhere. Same goes with our food. If we are eating pizza and ice cream all day long because we are experiencing inner turmoil, or we just haven't developed healthy habits, our bodies won't function at their best. Additionally, in order to get out of our own heads and resolve our feelings of depression, loneliness, sadness, and emptiness, we need to feed our brains too. One night of ice cream is great, but follow that up with reading your favorite book, going for a walk with your dog, smashing out a good workout. You have to exercise your body and your mind. Comfort foods can only comfort you for so long before they create their own problems.
When we eat food with company, we turn food into a language of friendship and relationship. We share good meals that are remembered by the conversations and laughs that were had while eating them. When food becomes a love language, it nourishes our bodies the way it was meant to. When we use food excessively as a means to comfort ourselves in times of personal despair and loneliness, we become prisoners of the unhealthy delights of sugary, salty desserts. Every once in a while these things are treasures to be had, but when we use them excessively and not in moderation, we only make our mental and physical health worse.
No one has a perfect life, and there will always be periods of sadness to match the ones of overflowing joy. However, instead of binge eating everything in your pantry so that you can temporarily relieve yourself of the many stressors life may throw your way, remind yourself that this pint of ice cream won't change your circumstances. Find comfort in your discomfort, conquer that which threatens to tear you down, and don't let your fears consume you and keep you from reaching your fullest potential.