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Chronic Pain and Food Seeking

Whether you have pain that’s short-term, say a severe headache or a broken bone, or chronic and long-term, as can happen with fibromyalgia or neuropathy, you may be using food as a crutch to get you through the day. Being in pain can steer you toward the refrigerator in several ways, but you can learn not to let it do so—and improve your health at the same time. You may turn to unhealthy food:

· For comfort from pain because you hurt badly and wish to feel better. Who could

blame you for that? However, food is not meant for comfort, except occasionally. Especially if you’re suffering is ongoing, you may be telling yourself it’s okay to eat lots of sweets and treats because you feel so miserable. Or because life’s not fair. But, it’s not okay to mistreat your body when it’s already feeling awful. It’s far better to find true relief via yoga, sleep, rest, relaxation, meditation or other activities which will take an edge off suffering and not make you angry at or upset with yourself after you do them.

· As distraction because there’s little else you feel like doing. When people are in

pain, they usually want to be home in comfortable, familiar surroundings. But for folks who are used to being active, this may mean feeling as if there’s nothing to do but watch TV or go on the computer. It’s important to distract yourself from physical pain, but it’s also important to engage in positive activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good about yourself. Unless and until you find some pleasurable activities, my guess is that you’ll spend a lot of unnecessary time in the kitchen.

· Because there’s not much healthy food in your home and you can’t easily go out and

get it. Maybe you let yourself “get stuck” with nothing but sweets and treats around. You may unconsciously let this happen so that you can feel righteous about snacking on non-nutritious foods by telling yourself, “Well, I have to eat something.” Whether you’re in short-term or chronic pain, make sure that when you shop for food—or have someone buy it for you—that you get an abundance of healthy choices.

The best thing to do when you’re in pain is to pace yourself by getting enough rest and get involved in an activity you love that generates dopamine and makes you lose track of time. Try your hand at writing a novel, buy a sketch pad or some paints and give art a chance. Join an online poetry group, as a friend of mine with chronic pain has done. If you’re home alone because of illness or a medical condition, online groups can help comfort and connect you.

Most of all, look for a sense of purpose and pleasure so that you don’t end up feeling sorry for yourself. That’s when you’re most at risk for making a beeline to the cookie jar.

Best,

Karen

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