The Therapeutic Power of Food

"Times like this can leave you vulnerable to horrid voices in your head, demanding your attention, claiming all your (before) bad feelings to be exaggerated. The secret difference between mindfully eating comfort foods compared to mindless eating attempts to comfort is down to one thing, love. (Don't dismiss it just because it sounds cheesy)".


Apart from soup, which is, of course, the universal 'what to eat when sick, sleepy or low' standard comfort food- everyone has their own way of pairing food with therapy. Whether it's the timeless classics of some downtime, a movie and chromate or whether it's a glass of red wine, we all love therapy-food combos. For others, it is taking the time to assemble a delicate and complicated dish, the very art of concentration in cooking calms their worried mind. My Dad personally finds his most therapeutic time of the day is when he is cooking a homemade evening meal for our family. He finds it both relaxing and soul-warming. My Dads example shows how therapy and food are combined; it isn't just about eating but also about the preparation and effort it takes to create a dish.

The power that food has to comfort us has obvious back roots: when you were a baby and you cried your mother would feed you. This probably comforted you for two main factors, one the taste and delight of being fed but also the social interaction and warmth from your mothers' skin. Then as an older child when we are given a lollipop after a visit to the doctors or dentists- as something a little sweet to distract you from the pain.

Perhaps the second example here is where 'treats' can play dangers in adulthood when we mistake a soul-comforting snack and film with mindlessly eating to try to fill an empty hole. The examples are fine during infancy. But in adulthood, where we have been taught a lollipop can take away the pain, we sometimes try to make all the bad feelings in life go away the same way... by stuffing ourselves with cake, crisps and anything crappy to try and take those crappy inner feelings away. These mindless eating episodes are dangerous as you not only feel horrible about yourself before them, but often you feel even worse about yourself after them as well, which is not the point at all. Many people would believe a bar of chocolate or glass of wine would be 'crappy' for them, but when enjoyed mindfully, they can be very comforting and therapeutic. Moments become mindless when times become dangerous, the food itself is less important.

Times like this can leave you vulnerable to horrid voices in your head, demanding your attention, claiming all your (before) bad feelings to be exaggerated. The secret difference between mindfully eating comfort foods compared to mindless eating attempts to comfort is down to one thing, love. (Don't dismiss it just because it sounds cheesy).

The cheesy secret of love is to make it yourself, pour the wine yourself, make the food, prepare the bowl, or allow someone you love to make it for you. Have your best friend bring you chocolate, your parent cook you dinner, your lover pour you wine. Love is the basic ingredient in comfort food. And mindless eating has none of it, and mindful eating has lots of it. The act of preparing your dish is an act of healing, even if it takes 60 seconds of boiling and pouring a cup of hot cocoa. You are demonstrating a profound psychological truth: that you love and care for yourself enough to take a little time a trouble. Comfort foods are that meditative and calmative, something you know you are having and know you are enjoying. Prepared with care and thought by yourself or another and eaten with thought. 

 Photography by Daniel Brookman

Photography by Daniel Brookman