Ep. 97: How to COMFORT Yourself without FOOD

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In today’s podcast, I’m sharing THREE SIMPLE STEPS to comforting yourself without food that are a total game-changer.

When something BIG happens in your life, do you often look to FOOD for COMFORT🍲?

If you’re raising your hand here✋, you’re not alone!

In today’s podcast, I’m sharing THREE SIMPLE STEPS to comforting yourself without food that are a total game-changer.

Let’s face it, food is a primal, biological need for all of us that feels loving and comforting. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again that food *is* love💖. But here’s the thing: You can learn to show yourself comfort and love in ways that don’t involve running🏃‍♀️ to the pantry when life seems overwhelming.

In today’s episode of the Fitness Matters podcast, I’m sharing THREE SIMPLE STEPS to comforting yourself without food that are a total game-changer.  Here’s a visual aid to help you “see” what I’m talking about:

Ready? Let’s GO!

(Don’t wanna listen? Download the transcript here)

Find this episode on YouTube (video below) or on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Spotify, and Google Play.



Can’t see the video? Click here to watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/cqocQ8PPVUQ


The Killer B Hive Facebook group (You’ll need to ask for access first if you’re not already a member.)

Ep. 087: Stress EATING

Ep. 032: How to CHANGE

The Thought Model by Brooke Castillo

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Be sure to RATE, REVIEW, and SHARE this podcast with anyone in your life who’s looking beyond food for comfort! 💛

How to COMFORT Yourself without FOOD (Full Transcript) 

You’re listening to the Fitness Matters Podcast, with Pahla B. And this is episode number 97, “How to COMFORT Yourself Without FOOD.”

Hello, hello, hello, my friends. Oh my gosh. This one is so good. Are you ready? Hi, I’m Pahla B. I’m your best middle-aged fitness friend. I know a little something about mindset work. I know a little something about the fitness matters that matter to you. And we’re talking about it. Boy, are we talking about it today.

I want to tell you a little bit of background here. And also, I’m going to interrupt myself before I’m even telling you a little bit of background; because somewhat recently . . . here’s a podcast within a podcast, you guys. Somewhat recently, I had a comment on I think it was on my YouTube channel, talking about how I should really stop doing so much talking at the beginning and just get into the meat of things. If you’ve ever watched any of my workouts, you know that it takes me a while to get there. I’ve always got to warm up, much like the podcast, where I’ve always got a little something where I’m talking about, “Hey, thanks for your reviews and ratings, and how are you doing? And how’s the weather?” And all that kind of stuff. Yeah, I do that here, too.

Anyway, I got this comment about that. And I want you guys to know that my podcast – much like my workouts, much like literally any content I give you – my hope for you is that you find it to be useful. And the only way that it’s going to be useful for you is if you make it yours. If you need to skip over the beginning, where I’m just kind of chatting and rambling and whatnot, please do. Oh my gosh, always modify the podcast to make it work for you.

It is not . . . and here’s where I’m going to give you a little tough love. It is not my responsibility to give you what you need. It is my responsibility to give you what I need, frankly. The way I create content, and the way that I put it out, is all about my creative process. This fulfills something for me. When you take it in, it’s your responsibility to take it in the way you need it, to absorb it in a way that makes sense for you. This is truly my gift to you. I’m not really spoon feeding you exactly what you need. I’m giving you what I need, and then you get to make it work for you. And that’s what I’m going to encourage you to do. I’m going to encourage you to take that responsibility, rather than trying to hand it to me, take the responsibility for yourself. Really be aware of what you’re taking in.

Really be aware of whether or not it resonates with you. Whether or not it works for you. You guys, it is completely okay with me if at some point you graduate from me. Like with the workouts, you could absolutely graduate. I tend to make slightly, I’m going to say easier workouts. They might not be easier for you, but they are easier for some people. There are plenty of other fitness trainers out there that are a lot harder than my workouts. Go do them. There are plenty of other podcasts that don’t ramble as much as I do. Go listen to them. At some point, it is actually my goal for you, that you won’t need me anymore; which sounds so weird because I love it when you need me. I’m such a mom like that. “Please need me. Please, please be around, and give me the kudos and the attention.”

But also, I really, really want you to feel so solid in your understanding of your brain, and how all this stuff works, that you could actually be better than me at this. I want you to be better than me. That’s what I want. And the way that you can get better than me is by being responsible for what you take in and how you absorb it and what you do with it. So, okay. Totally, wildly, unrelated to how to comfort yourself without food.

So let’s get back to that topic, because here’s how I know that this is a fitness matter that matters to you. You guys. On a relatively recent Q+A Friday, which again, digressing; here we go, because this is what I do. Q+A Friday is a thing that I do almost every Friday in the Killer B Hive, which is my free and private Facebook group.

If you do the Facebook thing, come on over. If you don’t do the Facebook thing, the Q+A Friday is actually available as a podcast. You do not have to be on Facebook to listen to the Q+A. It has its own channel; not on YouTube, but it’s got its own SoundCloud. It’s on iTunes. It’s on Spotify. It’s on Google Play. It’s everywhere. You just have to search for Q+A with no spaces, Friday; you can find it anywhere you listen. There may or may not be links in the show notes. There are probably going to be links in the show notes. I usually try to give you links in the show notes.

Anyway, on a recent Q+A Friday, I had this question about a person who had comforted themselves with food. And I was talking about how we comfort ourselves, and why we comfort ourselves.

And what I said was, “If you don’t comfort yourself through your thoughts and your brain and your feelings, then you’re going to comfort yourself with food.” That’s just kind of how that works. Food is love, you guys. I know that there are plenty of fitness trainers, and plenty of people in the world who want you to think that food is only fuel. I don’t actually. I don’t subscribe to that. I really don’t. And here’s why. I’m going to digress again. But this one will be brief.

The very first thing we do when we give birth is feed our babies. That is the first way we show our babies, “I love you. I care for you. You’re safe here.” It is the very first interaction we have, as human beings. That’s how primal food and feeding is. I personally don’t think it’s worth it. I don’t think it’s worth your time and effort to try and fight that. I think it’s totally okay that you think of food as love, as long as you use it appropriately, and you understand that it’s one way to show love, as opposed to the only way. And you can show love in a way that still meets your weight loss goals and meets your lifetime goals and meets your health goals and all of that kind of stuff. You don’t have to love yourself to the point where you’re heavy, or you don’t have to show somebody else love to the point where they’re overweight because of your love being shown as food.

Anyway, I had this whole conversation. I was really pleased with it. I was like, “Man, I nailed that.” This was one of those times. I felt really good about that answer. And I actually gotten a lot of really positive responses, which I totally appreciate. Thank you, guys. And I also got this comment from a much appreciated Patreon patron, who said, “Okay, that totally resonated with me. Can you explain how to comfort yourself without food? You explained that we should. But can you really get into the nuts and bolts of it?” And yes, yes I can. Here it is.

Here’s the thing that I want you to know about today’s podcast. It’s a more advanced concept than normal. And that doesn’t mean that you won’t get it. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get some help out of it. It just means that there’s a bit of groundwork, and I’m going to go over the groundwork. I’m going to point you in the direction of at least one other podcast. We’re going to talk about where this all comes from.

And, not only do you need to understand the foundational concepts, but you need to have a little bit of practice with the foundational concepts. And that doesn’t mean that this is going to be monumentally more difficult. Okay, here I digress again. But I think this is a really good visual for you. I was on TikTok last night, because I’m on TikTok. Have I told you that? I think I’ve told you that. I don’t know if I have. Anyway, I’m on TikTok at Pahla_B, with an underscore between Pahla and B.

I, boy, boy, do I enjoy TikTok. It is a time waster, my friends, let me tell you. It’s very soothing. You get all of these happy endings, one minute at a time. And it’s really easy to just sit there and scroll. And it is such a dopamine hit. Or serotonin. I don’t remember which one is which. This is worthy of looking up. Anyway, I was watching this video, and it was this very young girl, meaning like she was 20 or whatever, who was explaining how to do an aerial cartwheel instead of a regular cartwheel. And she made it look so freaking easy, like “Oh, just lean down real hard, and put your hand way behind you. And then just flip your legs over your head. Just do a cartwheel without touching your hands to the ground.”

And I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Even at my youngest and fittest, I could kind of barely do cartwheels. There’s no way I could have ever done an aerial cartwheel. And she made it look so easy, as people do. But she was like, “Oh, this is relatively simple. You just do this.” And she totally broke it down and it made it look very simple. But it was something that was truly not going to be in my wheelhouse, ever.

And this is what I want to tell you. What we’re talking about today is not such an advanced concept that it’ll never be in your wheelhouse. It is not an aerial cartwheel. It’s not even a regular cartwheel. It’s simply something that you need to practice a little bit first. It’s kind of like . . . I don’t know why I’m going to give you a cake decorating example because I don’t decorate cakes. But it’s kind of like the difference between, okay, you’re pretty good at the little rosettes that you just pop out with the specific tool, versus after a while, you can actually make the petals and create a full rose.

Is that a good example? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t even like cake. I know that’s sacrilege for lots of us, but I am not a fan. I don’t love cakes or cupcakes. I would eat a cookie any day, except if it has raisins, but I don’t love cake. Anyway, that’s the example I’m going to stick with. Hey, let’s talk about stuff. Let’s talk about the actual practical, how to comfort yourself without food, because this is the longest intro ever.

Here’s number one. There are three steps, that’s it. But, you know how this goes when we’ve only got three steps. Step number one. And this is something that’s going to take practice. Become aware of the behavior, and notice when it happens. Here’s what most of us do if we have any history of comfort food eating.

Let me stop here and digress. Oh my God. I promise this will be almost the last time. It’s me. I’m probably going to digress again. I’m not talking about binge eating; and if I were, I wouldn’t be, because that is beyond the scope of the kind of thing that I would talk about. If you are concerned that you have a binge eating disorder, I absolutely, 100% recommend that you go get professional one-on-one help.

There are lots and lots of behaviors that I can help you with, you guys. Comfort eating is definitely one of them. But comfort eating that crosses the line into binge eating, or disordered thinking, or just a little bit where you just don’t feel like it’s something you can control – that’s when you get professional help. I strongly recommend that if you have that question in your mind, like, “Gosh, is this podcast going to help me? Or should I actually go talk to somebody?” Go talk to somebody.

There are so many places that you could go for either a free consultation, or just a one-time, “Hey, do I need help or do I not need help?” Go get a professional assessment, and they can tell you, “Yeah. You absolutely need help.” Or, “No, you know what? You totally have this.” Give yourself that peace of mind of talking to a professional.

Anyway, if it is not something that requires one-on-one assistance, you can find the behavior, and recognize when it’s happening. You might notice, “Man, every time I feel stressed out, I just head straight for the pantry.” Or, “Every time I feel really sad, I head for the pantry.” Or, “Every time I feel angry, I head for the pantry.” Or in my case – I am going to give you a really good personal example today – when I feel incredibly excited.

Now. Here’s the reason why I’m going to give you this particular example, because I think a lot of us don’t recognize the feelings that we have this difficulty with, the feelings that create what you might refer to as a self-sabotaging behavior. I recognized, somewhat recently, that something exciting had happened to me, and I headed straight for the pantry.

That excited feeling was really difficult for me. So when you recognize it initially, you’ll likely recognize it after the fact. You’ll look back and be like, “Man, I totally just went and overate.” It’s already happened. You’ve already done the thing. So when you start to recognize that this is something that is even going on in your life, that is step one.

Sometimes what we do – and what I did for a long time – is I tried to kind of pretend like it wasn’t happening. And that’s why this is step one. Because sometimes we’ll be like, “No, I don’t even know. I just overate yesterday.” And we don’t even really try and dig into it beyond kind of just feeling bad, like, “Oh, I overate, and I just want to forget about it.”

So, step one is becoming aware of the behavior and when it happens in a way that is specifically, I’m going to say, nonjudgmental. We are going to need to be really open and curious about all of the parts of what we’re doing, all of the steps that we’re doing today. Because adding judgment is not going to be helpful to you. I know you know that, But sometimes it can feel difficult to not judge yourself. And that’s why I’m going to caution you that when we don’t judge ourselves, when we can come at this process with curiosity and openness and compassion, it’s going to be incredibly helpful for you to be in that state of mind.

So, number two, we’re going to identify the exact feeling and the thought that precedes it. You guys, here’s why this is really important: because we don’t just do things. And here’s the point where I’m actually going to refer you to episode 32, which is “How to Change” (Ep. 032 How to Change https://getyourgoal.com/podcasts/32-how-to-change/). And if you haven’t listened to that one or you are not familiar with the model (which is what I’m going to talk about next, a tool that I got from my mentor, Brooke Castillo), this is going to be really integral to this process. We need to understand how the model works and how we change our behaviors.

Because so many of us think that we simply change our behaviors, that that’s the point. We notice a behavior, and then we change that. But we don’t ever, we as human beings, don’t ever just do something in a vacuum. The reason we do anything is because we have had a feeling. And the reason we have a feeling, is because we have a thought. Every single time, you guys, this is how it works.

We have a thought that creates our feeling; that feeling drives actions; and then those actions get us results in our lives. So I’m going to strongly suggest that if you are not familiar with the model or with how to use the model, which is in episode 32, “How to Change”, that you go get that foundational knowledge right now. Otherwise, the rest of this is probably not going to make sense. And this is where I’ll tell you that having a little bit of skill, like applying the model to your life, and understanding how your thought creates your feelings, and your feeling drives your actions – that’s going to make a lot more sense when we’re talking about what the next step is here.

But here’s what I want you to understand foundationally: you are capable of not comforting yourself with food because it’s not just a behavior change. It’s not just something as simple as, “I’m not going to go to the pantry anymore. I’m going to willpower my way through this.” This has nothing to do with willpower. And hopefully, even that sentence right there can actually help you peel back a layer of judgment and just open yourself up to curiosity.

This has nothing to do with you not having enough willpower or self-control or self-discipline. It just has to do with you having a thought that creates a feeling; that’s it. You have a thought; that thought creates a feeling; and then that feeling drives an action. The action is eating. That’s all. That’s all this is.

So let me give you guys a really, really specific example of the last time that I comforted myself with food. And I am going to run through this as a model. In the show notes, there will be a link to go over to my website. I’m going to put a visual on my website for you, because I feel very visual. And I think that if you can see what I’m talking about, this might make a little bit more sense. Because what we’re talking about today is not just the model, but something that’s called an interrupted model. And that’s part of why this is a little bit more of an advanced concept.

So here’s how it looks. The circumstance is the first line of the model. Something happens, and then that sparks a thought for us. So the thing that happened was I signed a contract for a brand deal. And it was very lucrative, like very lucrative. It was the most money I’ve ever seen at once for a brand deal. It was a big chunk of change. So, the circumstance is that I signed a brand deal, and my thought was, “I’m rich.”

Now, long-time listeners of the podcast will know how much work I’ve done on my money mindset. Y’all, you’ve heard me talk about . . . this is where I came to mindset work. This is how I have anything to do with the self-help genre. This is where it all started for me. And so, it’s quite hilarious to me, that even after all of the work that I’ve done on my money mindset, that thought, “I’m rich” is what sparked this whole comfort eating situation for me.

Anyway, what happened was, I had the thought, “I’m rich.” And my feeling was ecstatic; I was . . . I’m having trouble even describing it. My heart was pounding. I was jittery from it. It was overwhelming to feel so happy and excited and thrilled and amazing and proud of myself. And this was basically the best thing that had ever happened to me.

That feeling of being ecstatic, as I previously mentioned, felt overwhelming; like physically, it was this huge adrenaline rush. And here’s where I interrupted my own model. This is what happens, you guys. That feeling, whatever your feeling is, feels big. It feels like a lot of adrenaline. And your feeling can be whatever: happy, sad, angry, fearful. I wanted to really point out though, oftentimes we think of a feeling that drives us to the pantry as being bad, like stress or anger. But it’s actually really common to have a happy feeling. The way I think about it is that my brain wanted to down-regulate. I was so happy that I needed to bring myself back down from that because it was too much. It was too big of a feeling.

Anyway, my feeling was ecstatic. And then I interrupted that model. And what happened in another model, because I interrupted the model, is that feeling of ecstatic actually became the circumstance; meaning, that I had a thought about the feeling. So that feeling became a new circumstance in a different model, kind of like off to the side here. And it interrupted the first model, because I never got to the point where I had any actions, or any result from that thought and feeling, that thought of “I’m rich,” and that feeling of ecstatic. I interrupted it, and the feeling of ecstatic became the circumstance in a new model. And I had a thought about that feeling of being ecstatic. And my thought was . . . and you guys, this is really important. Because I’m pretty sure that this is a universal thought, that this is “the thought” that you personally are having, no matter what the feeling is that drives you to the pantry, no matter what your circumstance was originally. I think the thought in your interrupted model is this: “I can’t handle feeling this.”

Whatever that feeling was in the first model, you and I have a thought. It’s quick, it’s fleeting. It took me . . . actually, when I sat down to really think about how I wanted to talk to you about this – really outline this podcast for you today – it took me a long time to find that thought. I had to ask myself several questions to come around at it, and be like, “Where was my brain at that moment? What do I think about feeling ecstatic? What happened here?” This is subtle. This is something that happens so automatically, that honestly, it was hard for me  to find this thought. And I’ve been doing this work for a while. Again, this is why I think this is a slightly advanced concept, but also why I’m telling you that I’m pretty sure this is your thought, too: I can’t handle feeling this.

So here’s what happened: that new thought, “I can’t handle this,” felt like panic. “Oh my God, I can’t handle this. What do I do? What do I do with this feeling that I can’t handle? If I can’t handle it, what do I do?” You can hear it in my voice. I’m actually literally flapping my hands at myself right now. Do you know that panicky feeling of, “Oh my gosh, what do I do?” Kind of running around like a chicken with my head cut off. “Who do I call? Where’s the adult? How can I get help?”

So what I did from that feeling of panic was I went to eat for comfort. I was comforting, not the feeling of ecstaticness (is that a word? I’m going to call it a word). I was comforting the panic. From that feeling of panic, I went straight to eating. I tried to resist feeling panic. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. This is fine. It’s okay.” I tried to talk myself down. I was super fidgety. I was desperately trying to think new thoughts. I was literally walking around, flapping my hands, trying to move my body, get the feeling out of me. It was such a jittery, fidgety, panicky feeling, that I felt like I needed to be in motion to try and get it out of me, or try and dampen it down with food.

Also wildly unrelated, but from my drinking days, way back in the day, I vividly remember that point where you’re like, “Uh oh. I think I’ve had too much to drink. Let’s go eat some bread. Let’s soak this up with something.” That’s how I felt. I wanted to soak up this panicky feeling with just something. Smother it with a blanket, smother it with food, because it just felt so big. It felt like it was jumping out of my skin.

So from those actions, it’s actually really clear what my result was. I didn’t handle it at all. I didn’t handle the panic that I felt, because of the thought that I had, “I can’t handle this feeling of being ecstatic.” Okay. You guys, that was all step two. That was all step two, of identifying the exact feeling in the first model, and then recognizing the interrupted model.

Okay. Once you’ve understood all of that, what we’re going to do, step three, is feel the feeling. And the feeling that we’re going to feel is the original feeling from the first model, not the interrupted model. We’re going to go back and feel ecstatic on purpose. Okay. Now I know that sounds incredibly simple, right? But here’s the thing. You already know what happens when you feel that feeling kind of naturally: you interrupt your own model. You interrupt your own model by having another thought, which creates another feeling, which drives the action of comforting yourself with food, among other things. That original feeling is hard; it’s hard to handle. And that’s why we have to practice it.

And here’s what I’m going to encourage you to do. I’m going to encourage you to practice it on purpose, so that it’s kind of a controlled environment. And here’s what I mean by that. It sounds so funny, but here’s what we do. When you think a thought, you create a feeling for yourself every time. That feeling drives actions, those actions get you a result. But you can manipulate this for yourself on purpose, by thinking a thought. For me, the thought is, “I’m rich.” I can think that thought and create for myself a feeling of ecstatic in a controlled situation where I can really just sit and recognize the feeling, recognize that it feels like a huge adrenaline rush, recognize that it makes me sweat. It makes me feel kind of fidgety. It makes me feel overwhelmed. It makes me have thoughts that I want to interrupt my own model. I can recognize all of that in a very scientific observer, really robotic kind of a way. That’s really what I’m coming up with here.

I can be an observer of my own feeling and let my body feel it all the way through. It’ll be a slightly less overwhelming feeling because it is a controlled environment. It’s kind of like the difference between having an actual house fire versus a controlled burn, where you’re like, “Okay, it’s still fire. It’s still wild, in the sense of fire’s going to behave in certain ways based on the oxygen and all of that kind of stuff.” But in a controlled burn, you’re watching it. You’ve got a fire extinguisher. It’s right there. It’s on purpose. It’s still going to behave the way fire behaves, but it’s not going to get out of control, hopefully, the way that a house fire can. So it’s going to feel slightly different when you create this feeling for yourself, as opposed to when it arises naturally from some kind of circumstance where you have an automatic thought that creates a feeling for you.

But I’m going to encourage you to feel that feeling on purpose. When you feel that feeling on purpose, what you’ll realize is that you can handle it. You can totally handle it. That automatic thought of, “I can’t handle this feeling.” You will have proven it to be untrue, and you will start to recognize that it’s untrue. Through the sheer practice of feeling your feelings, the big feelings, the ones that you feel right now, currently, that you can’t handle, you can totally handle. You’ve practiced this. Oh, kind of like a fire drill. Here we go with another fire metaphor. But when you have a fire drill, you’ll get that point where you’re like, “Oh, I’ve done this before. I know exactly what to do. Grab the fire extinguisher. Leave the house. Call 911.” Do the things that can help you realize that you can handle it.

When you practice feeling your feelings, you are offering yourself comfort, the comfort of trusting yourself, the comfort of knowing that you can handle anything. If you can handle a feeling that big, you can do anything. My friends, you are a rockstar. This is your superpower. When you feel a feeling all the way through, you can do anything. The only thing that happens in the world is that something happens. We have a thought about it that creates a feeling in our body. The more you feel your feelings, the more you can handle anything that comes your way in your lifetime. That is a really comforting thought, right? Like, “Oh my gosh, I can do anything. I can do anything, because I can feel anything.”

Okay. I know that this was a lot. There were numerous concepts all coming together. This, I think, is one of those episodes that you might want to listen to. And hey, skip some of the parts where I was digressing. You can come back to it again and again. And like I said, I am going to have a visual for you on my website, so that you can really see this interrupted model, so that you can understand what’s going on in your brain. It’s a little bit more advanced, but also, it’s something that you can understand, you can practice. And unlike an aerial cartwheel, unless you know how to do those, you can absolutely do this. You can do this, Duffy Moon. My friends, thank you. Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for listening. I’ll talk to you again soon.

So are you totally loving this mindset work, and you really want to do it every day in order to get your goal? Then my friend, you need to join the Get Your Goal group. It is my personal and private, very interactive, coaching and accountability group, where every day, we talk about your mindset, and we get your goal. You can learn all about it at pahlabfitness.com/get-your-goal. I’ll see you in the Goal group.

Listen to the full episode here, and be sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.

Originally aired October 4, 2021
In today’s podcast, I’m sharing THREE SIMPLE STEPS to comforting yourself without food that are a total game-changer.
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Meet Your Host

Mindset expert and certified life coach Pahla B knows a thing or two about changing your mind to change your weight and your life. She’s the creator of The 5-0 Method, Amazon-best selling author of the book “Mind Over Menopause,” and former yo-yo dieter who has cracked the code on lifelong weight maintenance. Join Pahla B each week for the personal insights, transformative mindset shifts, and science-backed body advice that can help you lose all the weight you want and keep it off forever.