I can remember eating a whole potful of oatmeal—so much that it made me sick—but right then, oatmeal seemed like the essence of comfort.

I had dropped out of college, was alone in a tiny studio apartment, in a new city without friends, and the future seemed bleak. So I ate. That’s how I coped. It was the only thing I knew to do.

And that’s all it was—a learned coping strategy.

And what we learn, we can unlearn.

We all have an emotional relationship to food—and that’s OK! The important thing is to understand it so that it serves you and doesn’t rule your life.

Today, stress brings thoughts of chocolate, and I know, when that urge for chocolate pops up in my mind, that I need to look a little deeper and acknowledge what’s happening under the surface. I don’t feel guilty or judge myself, instead I smile and think, “I know what’s going on…”.

And that thought, that moment of mindfulness, is like a door opening deep inside. It’s an opportunity to respond in a new way—to find a new way deal with whatever is troubling me at the moment instead of just numbing the discomfort with food. Wanting chocolate is a doorbell that signals the opportunity for me to change and grow.

The challenge is to hear it for what it is, without resisting it, without blame and shame. Those don’t help—like the food itself, they divert our attention away from what we really need to be noticing. Self-blame can be a familiar rut that’s easy to fall into and hard to climb out of, so let it go. Choose instead to be curious: Why am I thinking about food right now?”

So, let’s start with your comfort food— Do you have one? What is it? Has it changed over time? What makes it special to you?

Are warm, powerful memories associated with it? Honor them and own them—they’re a part of you. By consciously acknowledging them in this way, you can learn to bring them to mind without the food, so those good feelings are there for you when you need them.

Next, whenever you think of the food in the future, bring up the good memory right behind it. Pause for a bit to reflect on that and bring it into the present moment.

Now, notice the WHY—what’s going on that has you thinking about food? Just being aware of that is a powerful step! It might be a good idea to write it down, so you can clearly recall it later.

Choose to eat or not. Freely! It’s OK to eat. This isn’t a battle to win, it’s a path to peace, and it’s important to be gentle with yourself. I’ll have a piece of chocolate if I want one, and I rarely overdo it, because I’m choosing mindfully, powerfully, with full awareness of what I’m doing. It’s when we’re trying to blind ourselves to our pain, reject it, and numb it, that the eating gets out of hand.

Later, when the moment has passed, you can look more deeply at where the urge came from and how you might eliminate the cause or handle it without food. Dealing with it instead of numbing it is the way to freedom. And it starts with a pause.

Questions? I’d love to answer them! Reach out to me here: TalkToMartha