Friday, 11 March 2016

Comfort foods- a harmless habit or a dangerous addiction?

I have always been comforted by food. From childhood when I needed to undergo a series of unpleasant medical procedures and my mum rewarded my bravery with cake from a particular cake shop through the teenage years when boy trouble was eased by ice-cream, right through to now.


Yes I'll admit it. I reward myself and console myself with food. I'm pretty sure I am not alone in this but after a wander round a supermarket today looking for "me" food I was intrigued to realise my idea of comfort food has changed quite a lot over the years.

Funnily enough I was talking about this very issue this morning with a friend who also treats herself with wine and food. I am more likely to pick up jumbo packet of posh crisps than a bottle of wine but the principle (and calories) are about the same.

Am I generalising when I say a lot of women seem to be soothed by chocolate? Certainly I used to be able to predict where in my "lady cycle" I was by the strength of my desire for it. Now I am less driven by chocolate (having said that there are still days when I can easily scoff at least one entire box of jaffa cakes in a sitting. Or any minty chocolate.)

Mostly though If I'm looking for a foodie treat it will be seafood - some smoked salmon or some fresh prawns. Wagon wheels and creme eggs don't have the same appeal any more. I don't think I could actually eat a whole Mars Bar in a sitting any more - too sweet!

I worry that I have passed on a less than healthy relationship with food to my children, although they don't seem to crave it in the way I do. We still have Halloween sweets leftover.

I remember reading about encouraging eating in toddlers when my eldest were young. Now I'm not a big fan of parenting book, don't own any so I think I probably spotted this nugget (hahaha) in a parenting mag at the doctors. The article asked why we insist on bribing/rewarding children who eat all of their main course with promises of dessert? The implication is that savoury food is somehow unpleasant and finishing it needs to be rewarded with sweet stuff.


After reading this when my little ones were, well, little, I often let them eat their dessert first. This worked particularly well if they were ravenous. A small yoghurt or something similar took the edge off so they weren't too fractious to tackle pasta or whatever the savoury choice was. Since pudding was usually fromage frais or fruit I always felt it didn't really matter if they were too full to finish dinner.

I still do this with Grumpy who can get "past" eating if we leave it too long. He eats probably far to many brioche but they are handy as a stopgap until dinner is ready.

What worries me most is that I find myself taking the lead from my mum back in the hospital/cake shop cycle.  I realised I often offer "nice" food as a reward for achievements or as a comfort when they are hurt or ill. A biscuit almost always distracts from a scraped knee (along with a cuddle of course) but am I setting up a cycle of food as comfort in my children?

I remember though that the thought of the cake treat was what got me through the painful procedure. I'm grateful to my mum for coming up with the routine. Yes I would have survived without the cake but it really wasn't just the food I looked forward to, it was the opportunity to sit with my mum for a while and talk over what I was going through in a lovely little cake shop.


None of my children are overweight, and their relationship with food seems healthy (apart from Grumpy's brioche habit!) so I think I will carry on as I have been and hope that they get as much from my cuddles as they do from the biscuits!




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