Comfort and reward eating are closely related. For treatment purposes we have combined them into one subtype. The interventions that work for reward eating are also applicable to comfort eating and vice versa. Often these two subtypes represent a continuum with joy at one end and alleviating stress or depression at the other. Their origins are similar.
Some patients, even without a history of psycho-sexual trauma, will have developed a strong correlation between food intake and comfort or joy. Oftentimes they were brought up in a household where food was used to soothe a wound or to celebrate a moment. For these patients, every time they put food in their mouth, especially high carbohydrate, high glycemic index type of foods, a strong pleasure response is triggered in the brain powerfully reinforcing the eating behavior. At this point they will continue eating until they run out of comfort food. Any attempt at self-regulation is futile. The best behavioral intervention is premeditated discipline- the skill of stocking your home in a manner to protect you from the impulses that you know will come. Review the chapter on premeditated discipline, then continue to review that chapter periodically. That point cannot be emphasized too much. I have yet to meet a man or woman strong enough to stare down comforting carbohydrates in the midst of psychological pain or loneliness. It’s better to plan to be weak rather than hope to be strong when such moments afflict us.
Dr. Stephen Petteruti is board-certified in medical weight loss and family practice. He runs a Functional Medicine Center and has been practicing Medical Weight Loss for over 15 years. For more information about his center and weight loss program, please visit: https://www.im-120.com/Intellectual Medicine 120 is in Warwick, RI.
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