It is quite natural to want to eat when we are hungry because it is from eating food that our body receives the necessary nutrients required to keep us healthy and alive.

However it is not uncommon to find that certain people eat for the wrong reasons. They do not eat because they are hungry, they eat because they are going through one thing or the other in their lives and regard food as the only source of comfort.

It is undisputable that each and everyone has their up and down days but how we deal with the "down" days will identify whether we are coping with the problems presented or we are sinking along with the problems.

As a way of escapism, some people resort to eating - which one could call comfort eating or emotional eating when they are facing challenges in their lives. Afterall the food will not shout back at you, will not demean you, will not bring you down and will not "hurt" you (you think!). Yes, you might feel that temporal high or lift as a result of eating anything that you find and at any time, but the truth be told, if one continues to comfort eat, the proof of this would be found in one's waist line soon enough.

In most cases, when people comfort eat, they tend to turn to foods that will make them feel good - say for instance a chocolate cake. Instead of eating a piece - because you are looking for comfort you eat the whole big chocolate cake and how do you feel after eating the cake - you feel comforted. But for how long?

People who comfort eat normally use food as a way of getting out of that situation even if temporal - because lets face it, after comfort eating and feeling good, one would still have to come back down and face reality.

What are the signs one is to look for in order to determine if someone is or has been comfort eating:-

Has the person put on a lot of weight?
Is the person undergoing a situation whereby they feel there is no solution?
Has the person been through a traumatic experience?
Have they been under any sort of stress?

If you can relate to any of the signs listed above, then you probably are a comfort eater. What the comfort eater may not realise is that the type of foods they snack on does not do them any good apart from that temporary "high" they feel after consuming the food.

Comfort food could be any of the following in no particular order:-

High carb foods like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese;
Surgary foods like cookies, icecream, donuts and cakes; and
Foods with high fat content such as fried foods and french fries.

How does one go about getting rid of the comfort eating habit?

Step one
In order for a comfort eater to get any help, they have to first of all admit that they have a problem. Without doing this then they might as well continue their eating habit. This could be extremely hard for the person with the eating problem as they might feel guilty over the fact that they have contributed towards their health issues by gaining a lot of weight. They might also experience a feeling of helplessness because they do not see any way out of their problems.

Step two
After admitting that they have a problem, the second step a comfort eater could take is to seek help in the form of visiting a counselor who will be able to suggest ways of getting over the eating problem. One of the things a counselor may suggest is relaxation techniques, practice problem solving skills, family support network and visualization. In the process the counselor would be able educate the comfort eater about the benefits of eating food in order to give the body necessary nutrients and explain why eating certain foods in excess is nothing short of an emotional crutch.

Step three
The support of close family members would also be of significant help here. Once they are aware of the challenges you have with regards to comfort eating, they would be able to offer you support by assisting in your choice of foods. Or since they are now aware of the challenge you have, they might be able to offer their help whenever they see a sign that you could be experiencing some sort of stress in your life.

Step four
Excercise could serve as a way of relaxation - it does not have to be any of high impact, just something that would assist in eliminating the stress factors one may be experiencing at that particular moment. A few stretch exercises might be just what you need. If you don't mind going for walks, you might just be able to relax in the process. It is amazing what going for a walk might do.

Step five
Helping other people with their own needs and challenges could also help because it removes the focus from you. In the process of helping others with their needs could lead to you looking at your own situation in another perspective and maybe just maybe you might realise you don't have a problem after all!

Determination on your part to seek help when you are facing a challenging situation will help in removing your focus on food.