Comfort Food Diet

This sudden cold snap, and the return to Eastern Standard Time, does more than make us turn up the heat and curse the early hour it becomes dark.

It changes our appetites too. Meals consisting of greens and raw vegetables topped with cold chicken isn’t what we want. That was appealing when the temperatures were hot, but now we want heartier, warm, gooey kinds of food.

It's 5pm and it's cold and dark and we just want to get home to eat something warm, hearty, and comforting!

It’s 5pm and it’s cold and dark and we just want to get home to eat something warm, hearty, and comforting!

Stews, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and chicken pot pie are considered comfort foods. I don’t know when they became comfort foods; they used to just be food. No matter what they’re called, it’s what we want when it’s daylight hours are few and outside it’s cold.

When we want to lose weight or avoid a weight gain, comfort foods present some challenges. They’re usually high in fat and calories and taste so good we suffer portion distortion. We don’t realize how much we’re eating and when we’re offered seconds, it’s hard to refuse.

Shepherd's pie and we've barely made a dent in it, so let's just keep eating until we're so full we can't shovel in another bite?

Shepherd’s pie and we’ve barely made a dent in it, so let’s just keep eating until we’re so full we can’t shovel in another bite?

It’s hard to make this reconcile with any sort of weight control. Hard, however, is not the same as impossible. It’s not necessary to stay away from comfort foods to reach or maintain your weight goal. It’s a matter or making choices.

There are 3 choices you have to enjoy your comfort foods.
1. Replace ingredients to make comfort foods low-fat or fat-free.
2. Reduce the amount of higher-calorie ingredients in standard comfort food recipes.
3. Prepare the comfort food recipes exactly the way you love them and enjoy smaller portions.

My opinion, for what it’s worth, is it’s not worth the time to prepare or eat fat-free comfort foods. Choice 1 isn’t my first choice.

Sometimes a reduced amount of the the higher fat and/or calorie ingredients yields a perfectly respectable version of the real thing. It’s a matter of experimenting. In general, I’ve found Weight Watchers recipes and Cooking Light recipes to masterfully reduce and replace ingredients without sacrificing flavor, creaminess or heartiness.

Choice 2 works for me sometimes, although when a recipe calls for fat-free cheese I reject it. The rationale is fat free cheese is just fine in recipes but not great for sandwiches. I just find fat free cheese not great ever. I am okay with fat-free sour cream in recipes though. I can’t taste the difference.

My first choice for enjoying comfort foods is choice 3. I want the whole experience just the way it ought to be. I’d much rather eat less of the real thing than more of a substitute. One thing I’ve learned about me throughout my weight loss/maintenance is that I don’t need piles of food to be satisfied. Satisfaction is achieved by eating what I love in balance and moderation.

When I believed that I was incapable of balance and moderation, and when I thought volume was what satisfied me, I was stuck in this pattern:

lose / gain / lose/ gain again / give up on my weight goal / repeat

When I changed my belief to “I am capable of balance and moderation,” I began to learn the skills that allowed me to eat what I love in the overall context of a balanced food plan.

These are among some of the strategies worked to help me get to balance and moderate eating:

Retraining yourself to eat for lasting weight loss success, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

For best weight loss results don’t cheat when you eat

How to be the boss of you

Why being a jerk is a good approach for successful weight control

3 Sneaky (and a little weird) weight loss strategies that really work

I encourage you to explore your ability to eat what you love and manage your weight simultaneously. You can do it and you will finally have everything you want – good tasting food and weight goal!




Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.