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Why your imagination can save your waistline & reduce stress

Have you ever felt below the weather, like your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone?  And before you know it you’ve dived straight in to your favourite comfort food?

I look at my steaming bowl of tinned tomatoes I’ve chosen to nurse my current cold and observe what an odd “comfort food” I have chosen.

Usually defined as one that provides emotional comfort or feelings of well-being, whilst being high in carbohydrates, my comfort food is not one of the usual top three for women; ice cream, cookies or chocolate, nor one of the top three for men; soup, pizza or pasta.

Choices which, according to Professor Brian Wansink of Cornell University, highlight an interesting gender difference and their place in society.

Men’s choices elicit feelings of being taken care of, being spoiled, but the same food choice in women elicits memories of the work and time involved in its preparation.

So why is a simple tin of tomatoes helping me feel better? Assistant Professor, Jordan Troisi, of University of the South, USA, deduced in 2015, comfort foods remind us of our social ties when we are feeling isolated.

In the world of various therapies, it can be described as a ‘Felt Resource’ (first researched by Eugene Gendlin in the 1950s, then further developed in practice by Franklyn Sills).

This is something that enables a person to move through life in a way that is fulfilling and satisfying – something that can be evoked at any time in order to manage, say, stress or pain levels.

Let me guide you to finding how the mere thought/felt sense of your comfort food can be turned into a useful tool at any time –

before a board meeting

in traffic

when the kids are playing up

when an old injury flares up

even when you don’t have access to the physical foodstuff.

Try this little exercise, when you have some down-time and are feeling OK and then practise trying to recall it for future needs.

1. Firstly, make yourself comfortable and just take time for a few mindful breaths to gather yourself.

2. Think of your favourite comfort food: Get a clear image of the colour, the smell, the taste, the look of this dish. What’s its temperature, its texture? Who or where do you associate with this dish? Spend several minutes fleshing out all the details.

3. When you have a comprehensive image, float the question “What sensations or feeling tones tell me I’m OK, when I imagine eating e.g. tinned tomatoes (ice cream, pasta etc.)?” These words might sound a little odd if you are new to this, but give it a go.

Sensations are clear physical qualities sensed in the body (tingling, warmth, coolness etc.) and feeling tones are more diffuse, perhaps difficult to grasp at first, but are often emotional (nurtured, safe, comforting, etc.).

4. Sit with this question for a while, you may be surprised what comes up. Make a note of where in the body you get the sensations and emotions. Don’t judge yourself, allow it to come and be kind to yourself. For instance for me, when I recall the image of eating tinned tomatoes the feeling of lightness and warmth in my stomach, coupled with a feeling of being nurtured, calm and quiet tells me that I’m OK right now.

5. Now create a short cut. Imagine your comfort food as an icon on your laptop and that icon represents the whole of the felt experience of eating that food. Attach the three words that most conjure up that feeling of OK-ness. Mine would be lightness, nurtured, quiet.

6. Once you’ve described your Felt Resource, spend some time resting in it, really becoming accustomed to those felt sensations.

You can use your icon to access these comforting sensations later, when you’re next stressed in traffic or with the kids or feeling overwhelmed. Simply take a few long breaths,to gather yourself and, with the help of the image of the icon, enjoy the feelings of well-being and OK-ness that it invokes in your body.

This may take time and patience to practise to become adept at creating a felt resource and actually recalling it in times of need. Time spent with your actual comfort food, learning how it feels for you in your body, will be time and calories well spent. When you don’t have access to your comfort food in difficult circumstances, your felt resource will help strengthen you and save your waistline.

Shirley Hiscock, BCST, RCST works with the expat community in Basel, to enable you to be better able to meet life’s health and emotional challenges, using Craniosacral Therapy to balance your nervous system. If you’d like to know how she can help you, book a free phone/video call here.

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