The Psychology Behind Comfort Food

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The Psychology Behind Comfort Food

comfort foods are the typical go-to-stress-reliever for most people / Photo By dolgachov via 123RF


When people are being stressed after a long and hard week of working and commuting for hours, they tend to find for something that could ease their stress and make themselves satisfied and calmed. There are people who like to sleep or take a short nap, while there are also others who find comfort in foods and other leisure activities such as reading a book or watching a movie in order to keep their mind off the work and or school-related stress they underwent during the week.


Having something that can ease the mind out of stress and pressure is very advisable in order to keep the mind healthy and ready for the next week’s workload that is ahead of them. Comfort foods are the typical go-to-stress-reliever for most people since it is very easy to acquire and also for the reason that it is very hard to resist the calling of the stomach once it paired up with the mind.


Comfort foods are typically energy-dense, high fat, and sweet. Some people crave for chocolate, ice cream, and French fries. These foods give distinctive pleasure or make the person to temporarily feel better. In an article posted by Vitacost, Brian Bender, a certified nutritionist said, “Comfort foods are comforting because they provide psychological comfort”. Most of the times, comfort foods are those foods that could stir up the fondest memories that the person have which could bring pleasure and satisfaction to the person.

Moreover, the article also shared that the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science also explained that comfort foods are also capable of providing emotional comfort while it reminds the person of their childhood memories that have an effect to the person whenever they feel lonely or rejected. However, the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Sciences also stressed out that cravings are different for men and women.


Food cravings explained


People tend to seek high-calorie, high-fat foods during periods of stress. Thirty-eight percent of adults report that they have overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods in the past month because of stress, according to the American Psychological Association. People who are feeling sad also tend to eat more less-healthy comfort foods that they feel happy, according to research out of Cornell University. The research from Cornell University also suggested that females tend to prefer snack-related comfort foods while males prefer more meal-related comfort foods. The research also speculated that the gender differences may relate to upbringing.

comfort food make a person to temporarily feel better/ Photo By dolgachov via 123RF


According to a web post by Very well Fit posted that recently, researchers at the Food and Brand Lab at UL Urbana-Champaign conducted a research which explained the psychological comfort that is connected with comfort food and how food cravings are different for different genders. The study explained that the chromosomes have a vital role in comfort foods. Men tend to crave on foods that are associated with foods that were prepared by their mothers when they are younger. On the other hand, the study showed that women are more inclined to look for foods that don’t need much time preparing and 92% of them confessed that they are chocolate addicts.


In addition, younger people preferred more snack-related comfort foods compared to those over 55 years of age. A study also revealed strong connections between the consumption of comfort foods and feelings of guilt. An article, “The Myth of Comfort Food” asserted that men tend to choose these types of savory comfort foods because they remind them of being “pampered” or spoiled, while women choose snack-related foods because they are associated with low amounts of work and less “clean up”. It also suggested that women are more likely to reach for unhealthier foods in times of stress due to more weight-conscious mindsets.


What are the meanings behind comfort food?

Food cravings and comfort foods have a psychological and physical benefit. Mindbodygreen posted that there is a meaning behind the food cravings that people have whenever they are stressed out. People who are craving for sweet foods alert the person that the body is not having its required amount of energy. Having a minimal number of cellular energy production could happen because of having a lack of minerals which are needed for proper insulin secretion and sensitivity. There have been a number of studies where it shows that sugar can affect the same brain regions as drugs and alcohol. Chocolate specifically is also metabolized to serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone which explains that cravings can also be related to an emotional need.


Craving salty foods explain that the body is experiencing low electrolyte levels, dehydration, chloride deficiency, and iodine deficiency. Salt cravings can indicate that the person is trying to solidify themselves in the overwhelmed state. Subconsciously, the person may be trying to fortify themselves with the hardness and strength of salts solid construct in order to deal with the situation. Meanwhile, fatty foods indicate that the body has a deficiency in calcium and fatty acid. Emotionally, when people are looking for fatty comfort food, they tend to feel hurt, loss and has depleted self-worth.




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