I don’t know about you, but we have struggled with some illness in my family in the past. Last spring, four of the seven kids had influenza B and although I didn’t get sick, I was tired.
I’ve noticed that when my kids are sick, or my husband is sick, or I am sick, I often crave junky foods. (Unless of course someone has a stomach bug and nobody wants food of any kind!)
Why Is That?
My theory is that when we are sick, our bodies and our minds are stressed, and for many of us, that stressful feeling often translates into the desire for comfort or junk foods. Unfortunately for most of us that have battled our weight, our long time comfort foods are not broccoli or salad. Our comfort foods are often those foods that we associated with feeling taken care of by our parents or the foods we used to satiate stress before we started to get control of our eating habits.
Childhood Comfort Foods
Your childhood comfort foods are probably different than mine, but I remember loving Sprite, salty soup, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, macaroni and cheese, and chocolate cake. I have friends who tell me that their childhood comfort foods were biscuits, chicken and dumplings, apple fritters, ice cream, and spaghetti and meatballs. Feeling sick often brings back those memories of what foods made you feel good as a child, and so it is pretty natural to think about those foods when you or someone in your family is sick.
Stress “Reducing” Foods
These foods never reduced stress for me, but when I was obese these foods were the ones I often turned to when I was stressed. The truth is these foods added to my stress because I almost always felt guilty after I ate large quantities of Oreos, chocolate candy, ice cream, desserts, or bags of chips. When I am sick, I do think about these foods. The difference between now and then is that I never eat large quantities of these foods and rarely have them whether I am sick or not.
Managing The Comfort Food Craving
Can you turn off the comfort food craving when you are feeling under the weather? Well, I don’t think you can turn it off but you can manage it.
When I’m under stress, either from illness or other things going on in my life, I have to make a conscious choice not to give in to my cravings for junky foods. It takes a deliberate effort sometimes for me to acknowledge that I’m feeling stressed, acknowledge that I want junk food because of the stress, and reaffirm that no matter how I’m feeling,junk food is not going to help.
Now of course if you are sick and craving some salty soup, that’s different. If you are sick and craving peanut M&M’s, they are not going to help you feel better. When we are sick we need to nourish our bodies with nutrient-dense foods that will help us heal, not foods that are full of sugar and unhealthy fats that will do nothing for our body.
It comes down to managing the emotions when you are sick just as you have to manage your emotions when you are well. It is definitely hard to manage our emotions when we are sick because we are not as physically strong as we usually are. The good news is that you can do it.
Do you crave comfort or junk foods when you are sick? What to you do with those cravings? Diane