3/9/2010

Eating Healthy While Sick

By Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am — Filed under:

I just came off two weeks of severe sickness. I’ve worn a indent into the couch in the living room and every garbage bin in the house is filled with tissues and empty Mucinex bottles. I’m still coughing and stuffy, but now I’m finally able to stand without dizziness and I have enough energy to turn on the computer and push a few keyboard keys. How did I eat while I was sick?

Quite poorly, actually…

I usually stay away from juices because they have a lot of calories and don’t really fill me up. While I was sick however, I craved orange juice. It was one of the foods my mother gave me plenty of when I was sick because the vitamin C was thought to help with colds back in the Seventies. While I lay on the couch, unable to do anything more than read some comic books and gossip magazines, I drank almost a gallon of orange juice.

Probably not the healthiest choice available to me.

What should I have done? Shouldn’t I just stop trying to diet when I’m sick? No. Following my diet plan would have probably helped me get healthy quicker, but I abandoned it at the first moment of ailment. Why?

Comfort.

Comfort food has its name for a very important reason. It makes us feel a little better. Did the orange juice and the Tyson Chicken Cordon Blue Bites make my sinuses drain? No. Did the french fries and cheeseburger make my muscle aches go away? No. Did the macaroni and cheese ease my dizziness? No. How exactly did all that food make me feel better?

It didn’t. Comfort food makes my BRAIN feel better not my BODY.

So, how do I fix this? How do I make my brain feel better without abusing my body?

The New Comfort

There are several ways to comfort myself without stuffing my face. Firstly, is to nurture myself WITHOUT food. Here is a list of things that make me feel comforted.

  • A warm bed: A heated mattress pad or cuddly husband, either will do.
  • A SOFT blanket: Not the scratchy afghan I huddled under on the couch. I should have found a soft blanket that makes me feel hugged by a cloud.
  • Quiet music: Instead of watching endless episodes of South Park, I should have listened to some soothing music. It would have helped me sleep, which is what I needed more than anything.
  • Light reading: I got this one right. I curled up with a stack of comic books and gossip magazines. Not enough intellect to tax my mind, but just enough entertainment to distract me from the pain.
  • A purring kitty: Maggie, purring, warm and kneading on my shoulder was another comforting moment in my day.
  • A humidifier or vaporizer: The new vaporizers are a lot safer than they used to be when I was a kid, but the vapor in the air is different, somehow. I’d like to find an old Vicks vaporizer that risks burning me every time I fill it just to get that thick and watery humidity in my room.

Giving myself this sort of nurturing will help me need comfort food less. What do I do about those cravings for comfort food, when they do come?

The New Comfort FOOD

Macaroni and cheese, chicken soup and orange juice used to be the foods that I ate when I was sick. In fact, they were the staples of my diet this last time around. They don’t actually cure me, however, although there is a case for chicken soup. All they do is make me feel better emotionally.

The only way to solve the comfort food problem is to teach my body to crave new comfort foods.

Next time I’m sad, sick or upset, instead of turning to high fat, high carb and high salt foods, I need to turn to healthy foods. If every time I got sick, I ate apples, I would start to crave apples every time I got sick. Comfort food isn’t some magical combination of ingredients that makes me instantly calm. It’s the mere act of repetition that makes it comforting to me. I need to retrain my body to crave healthy food instead of what it currently craves.

I suspect this will take a while before the new cravings take hold and override the years of abuse I’ve done to myself. As soon as I’m able to make that leap, I’ll tell you about it.

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2 Responses to “Eating Healthy While Sick”

  1. Valerie Says:

    Last time I was sick craved flavored water and I crave sour sweet candies, juice lemonade, even a slightly tart diet caffine free cola

  2. Braidwood Says:

    Laura, I’m glad you’re feeling better.

    I really enjoyed reading your reflections in this post. I liked your list of things that are comforting and nurturing.

    Do you know what I do when I get stressed? I I stay up late! Here I am up late. I made a list of comforting things to do before I go to bed – now I just need to do them. Goodnight!

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