Will power and comfort eating

Michele Buchanan
Written by Michele Buchanan

You may need more than just will power to stop comfort eating.

We have all eaten food for comfort or when things become too overwhelming and while for some this is done in isolation for others comfort eating is more of a psychological behaviour adopted to bring some form of self-soothing, reward and or satisfaction.

Comfort eating is a known coping mechanism used by the body’s biological pathways that the body triggers to help it survive. Comfort eating which is also referred to as overeating means we tend to eat because of boredom, stress, social influence and emptiness.  Eating before any physical signs of hunger is due to our emotions driving our need for food and tricking the body into thinking it’s still hungry even when we’re full.

When we overeat, we tend to eat foods that are manufactured to be highly addictive such as your typical processed foods and or unhealthy snacks. This is because the flavour of these foods trigger what is known as our bliss point or pleasure receptors which are activated via our taste buds releasing high levels of dopamine as well as slowing down our brains natural stop signal which tells us when we are full. The problem however with eating these foods is it can take more than will power for us to stop because we are continually using them to provide us with instant gratification meaning we require more and more of the same foods to gain reward and or satisfaction.      

Some psychologists believe that our overeating behaviours potentially commence from childhood, suggesting we have learnt over time to use food to self-soothe, remove discomfort, and provide reward. This explains why some of us have an unhealthy addiction to certain foods, and despite demonstrating high levels of willpower it not been enough for us to change learnt behaviours or our psychological response to our environment.

However if you are trying to overcome your overeating habits you may want to try some of these strategies below:

  • Call a friend – next time you think about eating to self soothe call a friend to distract yourself
  • Buy a Journal – journaling is an excellent way of supporting your emotional and mental health, this is another excellent distraction for when you have the urge to snack to self soothe
  • Exercise – a great way to manage our weight and mood is by being active, exercise will help support with regulating our mood and control of our diet which can positively curb the need to eat to feed your emotions

Main photo by ELISA KERSCHBAUMER on Unsplash

Leave a Comment