Why Do We All Seem to Have a Tendency to Comfort Eat?
If you have children, you will know that when they are small they tend to go through a fussy eating phase. Normally they grow out of it but parents have many different ways of reacting to a stubborn child. We do our best but sometimes in the long term, the strategy we choose produces an outcome we could not have anticipated and we find our children comfort eating.
Training Our Children to Comfort Eat Starts Early
Babies are not the best communicators. When a baby cries, there are not many things that it might need. Unfortunately, for some babies the first option when it cries is for their mother to feed them. It may be that the baby is hungry but if they are not, this is the first point where you may be training your children to comfort eat!
When a child starts to talk, the conditioning becomes more sophisticated. How often have you heard or said the following?
Clean Your Plate – There Are Children Starving in Africa
A more contemporary version to this is “You cannot get down from the table until you have finished you dinner” (finished, of course, implying eaten it all). This statement is training your children to comfort eat because it is telling the child that there is some merit in eating all of the food put in front of them – even if they have to make themselves ill in order to do so. The implication is that force feeding oneself is an activity that should be commended. As an adult it becomes difficult to leave food because to do so would be “bad” or “naughty".
If You Do Not Eat Your Dinner, You Will Not Get Any Pudding
This is training a child to regard sweet things as superior to savoury. The dessert becomes the reward for eating the main course. It trains the child to eat dessert even if they are filled up by the main course.
Be A Good Boy/Girl and Eat Your Dinner
This teaches the lesson that if you eat (even if you do not want to eat), you are good. As an adult, this child will eat when they are down or feeling dejected because they have been conditioned to feel good or rewarded when they eat.
If You Are Good, I Will Buy You Some Sweets Later On
This conditions a child to believe that sweets are a reward. If as an adult they feel in need of a lift, they can give themselves a feeling of reward by eating sweets!
The above are examples of how we parents can inadvertently give the wrong message. Having a parent that uses these tactics to encourage eating does not guarantee that comfort eating will result in your becoming overweight but if you have a weight problem this is where it may have started. When eating habits like comfort eating are deeply ingrained trying to get thin just by calorie counting can be an uphill struggle.
Address Unhelpful Patterns of Thinking with Hypnotherapy
“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.”
A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, 2009
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