A Neurologist On Why You Crave Comfort Food + How To Stop

It’s the billion dollar question: How do you retrain your brain?

“I think that mindfulness is the key,” notes Williams. “Paying attention to your behaviors, not just doing things automatically, and finding ways to replace those negative behaviors with positive ones.” When you feel the urge to reach for food as a source of comfort, stop and think: What are your true motivations? Are you truly going to savor the treat, relish in the flavor of every crumb, or are you just chowing down because of the familiar rush it brings? 

You can also try to get to the root of where these habits come from. “For instance, my love of sweets came as a child,” Williams reminisces. “Sweets were always treats that I shared with my parents; my dad would buy some cookies, put them in the cabinet, and we would sneak into the cookies at night, and that was our little fun secret.” For Williams, those sweets became associated with the mirth and playfulness of childhood, as well as feeling close to her father. Rather than reaching for those foods as a source of comfort, perhaps she calls her father to recreate that feeling of connection. “Finding ways to interrupt those habits and then replace them with other positive things, is one of the keys to helping break those habits,” Williams adds. 

Of course, that’s not to say you should give up comfort food entirely. As we mentioned above, a sweet treat now and then brings joy! It lifts your spirits! It tastes amazing! Just try to recognize when you’re using those sweets to fill an emotional void, as opposed to appreciating the food itself. “Some people can do a little bit [of sweets], some people need to go cold turkey and then slowly reintroduce them, but you have to find what fits for you,” Williams says.

Finally, she also mentions that your body begins to crave what you give it: “So if you treat yourself a lot, then you begin to crave those treats more and more, versus if you are eating healthy, then you crave those things more.” 

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