Psychological Articles on Comfort Food

comfort food

Get ready to learn what many studies have reported in psychological articles on comfort food. Let’s start with the University of Illinois Food and Brand Lab, who came up with their own definition of comfort food:

"a specific food consumed under a specific situation to obtain psychological comfort."

Researchers from the University of Illinois concluded that people include home-made healthy food as comfort food almost as much as processed junk food that is less nutritious and higher in fat and sugar.

Other researchers from the same university studied the effects of watching a happy movie or sad movie on food selection. Viewers of Sweet Home Alabama, a happy movie, ate more grapes than the viewers of Love Story, a sad movie, who ate more buttered salted popcorn.

The Country Crock Study

A >Country CrockTM Side Dishes Comfort Food Survey was conducted in October 2004 on 1,006 Americans. Here are the conclusions they came to:

  • 3 in 10 Americans report eating more comfort foods than five years prior to the study.
  • 27% of those surveys think that mashed potatoes are the comfort food that remind them of Mom the most
  • Women see comfort food as a way to relieve stress and prefer sweet comfort food.
  • Men see comfort food as a way to get in a good mood and prefer warm, hearty food such as meatloaf.
  • Winter is the season when Americans eat most of their comfort food.

Psychological Articles on Comfort Food by Psychology Today

Psychology Today reported that when 1,005 men and women were asked to choose their favorite comfort food, they said ice cream.

According to Brian Wansink, Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, such a craving for ice cream could originate from a desire to recapture happy, carefree days of our childhood.

Research by University of California, San Francisco

Here’s the summary of research that was conducted by the University of California, San Francisco on comfort food cravings:

Based on research conducted on rats, scientists have concluded that there’s a biochemical feedback system that could explain comfort food cravings during stress and weight gain around the abdomen. This is all linked to cortisol that is generated while under stress. The studies “suggest that comfort food applied the brakes on a key element of chronic stress,” said Norman Pecoraro, PhD.

Fortunately for your waist line, there are other ways to treat chronic stress, such as: exercise, yoga, meditation, baths and many other relaxation techniques.

Pecoraro also referred to the middle-aged man or woman with a gut in these words: “This body type represents the classic distribution of fat from stress.” Losing weight then becomes a Catch 22 where stress causes weight gain, and trying to lose weight is stressful, which increases the likelihood of weight gain.

Canadian Studies About Comfort Food

Now a little closer to home for me… Researchers at Cornell University and McGill University in Montreal, Canada, reported that women are more prone to eat high-fat, high-sugar comfort food such as cake and ice cream. The study also concluded that women do so with feelings of guilt, loneliness and/or depression. Men choose soups, pasta and steaks to help their mood.

Stress is not the only reason why people eat comfort food. This study also included the selection of comfort food while dieting. It appears that women who are dieting are particularly prone to overindulging in the forbidden foods that are high in fat and sugar when they felt negative feelings.

When eating habits get out of control, the danger is to fall in the traps of binging, bulimia or anorexia.

So… be careful while enjoying your comfort food and choose wisely! Find great comfort food recipes on this page.