We call it comfort food for a reason…


A number of recent studies in psychology and consumer behavior have drawn some fascinating links between mood, emotions, and eating.

One study, led by University of Buffalo graduation student Jordan Troisi, found that subjects associated “comfort food” with loved ones.  Researchers found that by invoking memories of those held dear, consuming — or even thinking about — comfort foods appeared to have the power to reduce feelings of loneliness.

Another study, co-authored by Cornell University nutritional science and consumer behavior expert Brian Wansink, found that sad respondents were significantly more likely to reach for less-healthy comfort food options than happier respondents.  Wansink believes that the sad respondents, who ate more, were trying to cheer themselves with more indulgent snacks, whereas the happy subjects enjoyed snacks in moderation, and were more inclined to choose healthy options.  There is good news, however, in a related study also authored by Wansink:  when presented with nutritional information, sad subjects were much more likely to curb their intake than happy subjects.

At meQuilibrium, we know that stress, emotions, and eating are all tied up in a complex set of relationships.  How we feel influences what we consume, and vice versa.  The interesting thing about both these studies is that they suggest that mindfulness can play an important role in more healthful eating.

If you’re feeling down, indulging thoughtfully in a food that reminds you of the ones you love really can make you feel better.  By the same token, by arming yourself with nutritional information before you indulge (become a label-reader!), you’re less likely to overdo it and feel bad after.  Of course, it never hurts to keep healthy snack alternatives handy!

If you’d like to read more about either of these studies, start here:

Troisi Study: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219788.php

Wansink Study: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070131134912.htm

Key Thought:

Mindfulness plays an important role in more healthful eating. By arming yourself with information, dining even in stressful times doesn’t have to be a disaster