In counseling, I often explore with patients the concept and idea around why I think comforting eating is so comforting and relaxing, besides the usual biological explanation of dopamine release.
When we eat, we engage in all of our 5 senses. We experience it through taste, smell, sight, hearing and feeling. Our 5 senses are great for anchoring us in the present moment. When we focus on our 5-sense experiences in the outside world, we are in the here and now. We are not inside our heads anymore, thinking about the past, or projecting/imagining the possible futures.
When we are in the here and now, we are not focusing/fusing with our “bad” past, or the uncertainties of a negative future.
Comfort eating can be very relaxing and enjoyable, but with the obvious caution. It just need to be in moderation, and if required, complement it with other healthy ways to engage in our 5-sense experiences. Bush walking, swimming at the beach, and spending time in nature are all good examples.
Some may refer to this as mindfulness. I would simply call it 5-sense experiences as opposed to our “inside head” experiences. I think framing it in this way, will help guide our actions much better. For folks who spend too much time inside their head, a prescription for more 5-sense experiences may be required. For those who spend too much time outside their head, we may need to prescribe more reflective practices for them perhaps.
Helping patients to gain better emotional literacy will help them with better emotional processing, better mood regulation, and better choice of actions in my opinion.