Why You Should Stop Eating Comfort Food (Some Interesting Research)
As you might know, I’m a recovered emotional eater (and founder of The DO IT Program). I’ve personally found that “comfort food” is a big myth. I’ve yet to meet a food which can truly comfort the root of painful emotions.
My one-woman research on the lack of true benefits from eating Ben and Jerry’s in times of so-called-need has been officially confirmed – in a huge study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal: Health Psychology,
Here’s the scoop on that scoop of Ben and Jerry’s you’re reaching for…
The researchers set up an experiment where people were asked questions like: “What foods would make you feel better if you were in a bad mood?” Plus, they were asked to identify other foods they enjoyed – but wouldn’t necessarily pick as a “comfort food” to eat when anxious or depressed.
Next, participants were asked to watch a video which was purposefully created to trigger “feelings of anger, fear, anxiety, and/or sadness.”
After the video, the first group of participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their mood – and offered the comfort foods they had identified as their favorites. (Note: chocolate was big on people’s lists! ). The second group of participants were offered the other foods which they’d chosen as enjoying – but not described as comforting. And in the third group, participants were not offered any food at all.
“Participants’ moods improved over time – no matter what,” the researchers reported, noting that “this happened to the same extent regardless of which type of food they ate, or whether they at any food at all.”
According to the University of Minnesota led research team, “Negative moods naturally dissipate over time. (…) Individuals may be giving comfort food ‘credit’ for mood effects that would have occurred even in the absence of the comfort food.”
Notably, other recent research has reported that diets rich in fruit and veggies —at least 5 servings a day—wind up bringing a greater sense of well-being and happiness. So if you’re truly seeking comfort in food make sure you maintain a diet plentiful in fruit and veggies.
Oh – and a final word of warning about stereotypical “comfort food.”
In my opinion, many of the foods people choose for comfort (ice cream, candy bars, chocolate, pizza, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese) could easily be re-labeled as “Dis-comfort Food” – in the long term. Think about it. Sugary foods bring about a crash and burn feeling – an hour or so later. Plus, pigging out on pizza, mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes (etc) can make you feel mighty bloated – not only an hour later – but the next day when you go to put on your jeans.
In summary: If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, instead of reaching for comfort foods, consider doing a comfort activity: comfort cycling, comfort walking, comfort meditating, comfort journaling, comfort manicure-and-pedicure-ing etc…