Noah and I have been seen by doctors at three different children’s hospitals. Two of the three have a McDonald’s located on their premises. (Genius marketing on McDonald’s part. And yes a bit disturbing as well.) Where Noah was ultimately cared for after he was born is one of those hospitals. During our time in the CICU, MLH and I usually were good with eating on the healthier end of the spectrum. We became very familiar with the hospital cafeteria. But we did go to McDonald’s several times. During those times we had a rough day in the CICU and were looking for comfort food. Unfortunately comfort doesn’t equal healthy. McDonald’s offers several comforting options: Big Macs, filet-o-fishes, chocolate shakes, apple pies, etc. Of course McDonald’s doesn’t have a monopoly on comfort food. There’s mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes, chicken pot pies, warm chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken and so on. While consuming it, comfort food tastes good and provides…well comfort. It seems to satisfy or suspend those feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, stress or other feelings which most likely are the culprits for wanting comfort food in the first place. Afterwards, for me, the comfort goes away. Most of the time some guilt and an upset stomach combined with a sugar crash take over. Oh but comfort food does taste good, and our bodies do crave it.
I’d love to claim, with all of my training, I no longer crave comfort food but I can’t. I still do. A couple of days ago, I dealt with a couple of very tough topics related to Noah. I experienced an overwhelming feeling of sadness and found myself feeling lost again. (Grief isn’t linear. Also after taking two or three steps forward, it’s not uncommon to take a step or two back.) So, instead of eating a healthy soup and salad for lunch I ate a Little Bacon Cheeseburger with a side of Cajun Fries from Five Guys. For better or worse I did find comfort from my greasy meal. Interestingly afterwards I didn’t feel as guilty as I thought would. Partly because I knew I’d burn this meal off during my next workout. Also I began looking forward to my healthy dinner which was already planned out. MLH and I had a chicken breast with a big, leafy green salad full of lots of raw vegetables that night. AFTER dinner I felt some comfort also. I felt comfort from the fact that I ate a healthy meal. I felt comfort knowing all of those nutrients will help me the next day, especially during my workout.
Given my love for delicious food, I’m not one who believes athletes need to eat healthy all of the time. But I am becoming more sensitive to what healthy food and not-so-healthy food do to my body and how it impacts training.
I think I have two types of comfort food now. There’s the good ol’ burger/McDonald’s/mac ‘n cheese type. I’m certain I’ll continue to have moments when I crave this food and will indeed indulge. And now there’s the type which involves fresh veggies, lean poultry, whole grains and nuts. I’ll call this “delayed” comfort food. I’ll feel the comfort after I eat, during my workout and beyond.