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Craving Comfort Food


by Kristen Magnacca

Autumn is coming in with a burst of chilly air here on beautiful Cape Cod, and I have noticed a shift already from desiring cucumbers and fresh tomatoes to cooking mashed potato and stuffing…

How does that happen? Naturally, your body begins to crave comfort food to warm you from the inside out.

Being curious about “comfort food” I turned to Wikipedia, which stated:

The term "comfort food" (added to the Webster's Dictionary in 1972) refers to foods consumed to achieve some level of improved emotional status, whether to relieve negative psychological affect or to increase positive. More generally, comfort food can be defined as food that brings some form or measure of comfort, sense of well-being, or easy satisfaction, usually from being warm and filling such as a dish made with a staple food, or basically pleasing such as sweets or desserts. Such food choices may consist of simple, familiar food — perhaps home-cooked or eaten at informal restaurants.

Improving Emotional Status

The line that jumped out at me was “improved emotional status, whether to relieve negative psychological affect or to increase positive.” During our fertility journey I was obsessed with eating and drinking the right foods to optimize our opportunity to conceive and also to prepare my body to help a baby grow in a wonderful environment.

Then with each negative result, something happened. Some kind of emotional snap would happen within my thinking. and resentment would set in. I resented the fact that I had to eat “properly,” one more “thing” to do in order to obtain pregnancy. Then, almost like clockwork I would go on a binge of eating poorly: potato chips are my evil, candy, caffeine — all the foods on the “do not eat list when trying to conceive.”

Damn the veggies and lean meats, fish and milk; bring on the coke, coffee and biggest piece of chocolate cake, and one the size of my head to ease the pain! Afterward, the guilt would settle in along with the stomachache.

Maladaptive Behavior

Looking into the definition of “comfort food” I found this:

Further studies suggest that consumption of comfort food is triggered in men by positive emotions, and by negative ones in women. The stress effect is particularly pronounced among college-aged women, with only 33 percent reporting healthy eating choices during times of emotional stress. For women specifically, these psychological patterns may be maladaptive.

So during that time I met the definition of maladaptive behavior referring to a type of behavior to cope with your situation. Yes, perhaps I could have been the Poster Person for “Maladaptive Behavior While Experiencing Fertility Treatment.” There I would have been, smiling away with a box of ring dings!

Balancing Your Coping Behaviors

Behaviors that help you cope with your fertility situation, are as personal as how you dress and express yourself during this time.

What brings you comfort the most to deal with this situation? My purpose in using myself as an example is to share with you that I had to learn my coping behaviors and learn how to elicit them without the swings, bringing them into a more balanced state.

What I know now that I wished I knew then is you must create a system of comfort, a toolbox filled with maladaptive behaviors, to move through this journey.

Where does your comfort come from? Perhaps your toolbox is filled with comfort from food, friends, family, dance, singing, crying and screaming or laughter?

The idea is to cultivate an army of comfort providers that help to acknowledge your feelings, both negative and positive, giving them a voice without judgment, doing so in balance.

Remember that you are doing all that you need to do, and one piece of chocolate cake or cup of coffee does not in any way diminish all that you are doing.

And on occasion if you just need to cut loose and go for that bag of Lays, no one will hold that against you. You are only human after all!


Author, consultant, and coach Kristen Magnacca has been featured on the Today Show and in publications including Woman’s World, the Boston Globe,,, and Kristen and her husband Mark live on Cape Cod with their children, Grace and Cole. Kristen invites readers to contact her through her website at