According to recent research, comfort food doesn’t really exist. The study shows that comfort foods aren’t any more effective at improving one’s mood than any other type of food.
The research team explains that “negative moods naturally dissipate over time” and that “individuals may be giving comfort food ‘credit’ for mood effects that would have occurred even in the absence of comfort food.”
Researchers conducted four different experiments, three of which were structured similarly. At the beginning of each session, participants described the foods that made them feel better when in a bad mood as well as foods that they enjoyed eating but didn’t necessarily make them feel better emotionally.
During two of the sessions, participants were shown video clips of disturbing and upsetting images after which they were given a generous serving of their self-proclaimed comfort food. If you hadn’t already guessed, chocolate was one of the most popular comfort foods listed, followed closely by cookies and ice cream.
At other sessions, participants were shown the upsetting videos followed by a serving of other foods they enjoyed eating or nothing at all. Regardless of the food served, all participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire detailing how they felt.
The results were pretty interesting: over time, their moods all improved regardless of what foods they ate, and this even occurred when they ate nothing at all.
What this study tells us is that the rationalisation for eating junk food during times of emotional distress has just been lost. Although we might think that comfort foods play a role in our emotional healing, it turns out that food has no real influence.
Understanding the myth of comfort foods could have a real impact on diet and weight loss. In fact, removing the excuse for eating high-fat, high-calorie foods might be the small push some people need to get the ball rolling in their dieting. It also indicates that these individuals might be able to improve their mood with food-free methods and perhaps even seek professional guidance.
The next time you find yourself reaching for those chocolate chip cookies when you’re feeling blue, don’t! Give it a few minutes and you might feel better, even without that special treat!