Strazzled: Craving Comfort Foods
Sep 30, 2020 09:30AM
By Wendell Fowler
It may be a new word for you, but Urbandictionary.com defines “strazzled” as a cross between stressed and frazzled. It’s safe to say we’ve become quite the strazzled society, especially in 2020. And when we feel strazzled, we tend to reach for junky comfort foods high in sugar, fat, white flour, and carbs. Perceived as warm and satisfying, comfort foods tend to be disagreeable to our health.
Paradoxical how we soothe, reward ourselves, or celebrate events with the scrumptious, memory-evoking, comfortcreating, extremely delicious traditional celebratory foods of our childhood. We also indulge comfort foods when grieving the stressful loss of someone near and dear or when we’re experiencing pandemic anxiety.
However, eating dead processed food makes us feel lethargic, less than whole, and unfulfilled. When we eat food in the state nature intended we feel that delicious nourishing energy.
We’ve learned from volumes of studies that the low-grade nutrition of the Standard American Diet is directly related to heart problems, high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, diabetes, depression, and a number of health miseries according to JAMA.
Alas, coping with life’s stressful lessons, the conscious, uncontrolled mind seeks short-lived happiness from foods that light up the brain’s reward system like a pinball machine. Wheee! The brain responds to happiness and stress by craving soft, sweet, smooth, salty and unctuous comfort foods such as calorie-dense chips, ice cream, cookies, grandma’s pie ala mode, mac n’ cheese, pizza, gooey chocolate brownies, carbolicious bagels, and fatty meats. Different for each person, soothing comfort foods tend to be the favorite foods from childhood, or a specific person, place or time with which the food has a positive memory.
The inconvenient truth: the industrial- strength, traditional warm and fuzzy foods we grew up eating, are high in sugar, fat, refined carbs, and salt, that temporarily elevate mood. According to Psychology Today, the same reward and pleasure centers associated with drug addiction are active when self-medicating comfort foods are consumed. That’s why we can’t eat just one.
New York Times writer and bestselling author, James Clear explains, “This is where the psychobiology of junk food really works against you. When you eat something tasty (say, chocolate peanut butter cookies) our brain cells file away that good feeling. The next time you see, smell, or read about that food the brain starts to trigger memories and responses that came when you ate it. These memories can cause physical responses like salivation and create the mouth-watering craving we get when thinking about our favorite comfort foods.
In “Why Humans Like Junk Food” food scientist Steven Witherly explains, “when you eat tasty food, there are two factors that make the experience pleasurable. First, there’s the sensation of eating the food. This includes what it tastes and smells like, and mouth feel. Food companies spend millions to discover the most satisfying level of crunch in a potato chip, and seek a perfect combination of salt, sugar, refined carbs, and fat. Their scientists will test for the perfect amount of fizzle in a soda. These factors combine to create the sensation our brain associates with a particular food or drink keeping us coming back for more, more, more.
Unfortunately, our body doesn’t know that junk food, alcohol and weed aren’t really food. Enjoying too much may be a tempting way to eliminate stress, but in general, they have no nutritional value. They also dull the little voice in our head and our good judgment. “I don’t care if eating half a cheesecake is bad, someone gimme me a fork!” Yes, it’s a struggle resisting the urge to self-destruct when loaded, bored, strazzled or watching TV.
Stock the fridge and pantry with fresh, less processed alternatives. Lots of seasonal fruits and veggies are offered at farmer’s markets. And, there are sugar-free treats everywhere, even chocolate.
When strazzled, my humanism makes deals. I acquiesce, put on the feed bag, and temporarily disregard self-discipline, specifically at social celebratory gatherings. At home, I enjoy raw honey mixed with freshly ground peanut butter. It’s a high-calorie yet satisfying and nutritious treat, so a little goes a long way.
When strazzled, drop the fork, turn off the media, stretch, take four deep, slow breaths, hold hands with the significant other, stroll into nature, do yoga, quiet the mind, start a new book, listen to podcasts, instigate intimacy, howl at the moon, or call an uplifting friend. Life’s full of many wonderful things…and the choice is ours.
Chef Wendell is an inspirational speaker, syndicated writer, and author who shares his science-supported message of the mind-body benefits of a plant-based diet and lifestyle, and that disease is not necessarily your fault. Visit ChefWendell.com for more information.