Diaspora Eating: The Habit of Comfort Food

Eat lots of fruit!

When life goes spinning out of control with emotions splintering into a thousand sharp pieces, I reach for the first thing that will set my feet back on comfortable ground, if only for a few moments: Comfort Food.

The Israelites were the same way (Exodus 16). God had just set them free from Egyptian slavery. They were wandering around the desert wilderness feeling abandoned, angry, and full of despair. So what did they want? Here is what they told Moses: “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted.” Never mind the slavery, they wanted their comfort food back.

Can you relate? But after the storm has passed,  I am still eating my comfort food. It seems cruel to give it up. I love eating popcorn. A few chocolates here and there after the day is done keep me cheerful. A glass of wine with dinner, oh, yes please. How about some dessert? Maybe just a sliver of cake. Giving myself eating breaks throughout the day just to keep me happy turns out that in the end, I am not so happy. I’ve gained weight, my clothes don’t fit, and I feel sluggish in general.

How can we end the taste for comfort food? For one, eating sugar-laden foods (and salt-laden foods too, though that is not as much a problem for me) is a habit I can break. I usually get a dizzy, weak feeling that makes me think I need to eat, but hunger does not make me dizzy and weak; addiction to sugar does. Giving up sugary foods and white refined starches actually makes me feel more energetic. People always talk about sugar highs, how eating a candy bar will give us a lift, but it gives us a low too, so that we go running for more. Then the pounds start pouring on.

Here’s a trick I use, eat fruit. Fruit has lots of natural sugar in it and when I cut down on refined sugars, I can taste the fruit sugar so much more. Refined sugar deadens my taste buds, it overloads them so that I don’t want fruit. For example, ever eat a a brownie and then think, hmmm, I’d love an apple right now? No, because that apple would not taste sweet after a sugar-laden brownie. Forget the brownie and eat as much fruit as you want! Don’t hold back. Buy lots of different kinds. You will love it and it is right from the earth, just like you. Nothing is refined or processed about it.

PS: I know you must be wondering about what God did for his Israelites who yearned for pots of meat out in the wilderness. I will tell you: That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. I imagine it must’ve been like Frosted Flakes, or like my favorite cereal, granola.

Incidentally, many hundreds of years later, Jesus refers to himself as manna (bread) from heaven (John 6:53-59). Just as the Israelites were fed by God every morning with manna, we can feed our souls every morning with Jesus Christ by remembering that his sacrifice on the cross allows us to come close to God. Jesus is our true comfort, everything else we use to comfort ourselves with is bound to become a habit we need to break.

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