Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pondering with a Purpose--Comfort Food

This Week's prompt is:  Comfort Food

I remember when I was a child and was sad about something, my mom would give me a glass of milk and a cookie and a big hug--my first comfort food.  I never failed to feel better.
Then when I was on my own and able to cook, I found that when the blues hit, I would make a big pot of chicken and dumplings, or mac and cheese.  Eating these reminded me of the good family dinners when I was a kid.  Now, I will go to the freezer and get the ice cream, and have a big bowl.  It never fails to make me feel better.

I was curious about comfort food, so I did a little research and found several interesting things.

Comfort foods may be consumed to positively pique emotions, to relieve negative psychological affects or to increase positive feelings. The term was first used, according to Webster's Dictionary, in 1977.
The identification of particular items as comfort food may be idiosyncratic, though patterns are detectable. In one study of American preferences, "males preferred warm, hearty, meal-related comfort foods (such as steak, casseroles, and soup), while females instead preferred comfort foods that were more snack related (such as chocolate and ice cream). In addition, younger people preferred more snack-related comfort foods compared to those over 55 years of age." The study also revealed strong connections between consumption of comfort foods and feelings of guilt.
Comfort food consumption has been seen as a response to emotional stress, and consequently, as a key contributor to the epidemic of obesity in the United States. The provocation of specific hormonal responses leading selectively to increases in abdominal fat is seen as a form of self-medication.
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% reporting healthy eating choices during times of emotional stress. For women specifically, these psychological patterns may be maladaptive.
A therapeutic use of these findings includes offering comfort foods or "happy hour" beverages to anorectic geriatric patients whose health and quality of life otherwise decreases with reduced oral intake.
For myself, I find that these conclusions are true.  My comfort food now seems to be emotionally stress related and not a particularly good food choice.  Now I'm sad, excuse me while I get a bowl of chocolate ice cream.


  1. Now you have me wanting chocolate ice cream. I think I may dig out the ice cream freezer this weekend and make some!

  2. Chocolate is my favorite flavor of comfort food!

  3. What a great post... thanks for looking up comfort foods... so I was right that I had never heard of them as a kid!
    It does make sense that they relieve guilt --- in my case they relieve depression....

    Thanks for Pondering with me!!

  4. Macaroni and cheese! Yum. I forgot to add that to my list of Thanksgiving comfort foods. :)

  5. I never want to eat something comforting when I'm happy. It's always when I've had a stressful day and I don't want to think about calories or carbs or how much sugar is in a meal. I just want to eat and feel better. I do love mac and cheese. But I seem to gravitate towards something sugary when I'm down. My favorite is cheese cake. I love it and try to make myself think it's not that bad for me. But I know that's a lie. Enjoy your day!

  6. Mac and cheese! That's one of my personal favorites!

  7. Thank you for taking the time to write on this topic.

  8. Baked potatoes with sour cream and meatloaf will always be my comfort food of choice...if I have time to plan that is. Otherwise, I'm an ice cream float kind of gal with diet root beer because that negates all the calories in the French vanilla ice cream. Sigh. 1977, eh? How interesting.

  9. Cut post about comfort food today, Marti........Give ME mashed potatoes and gravy every time! LOL LOL