Comfort food

After a long excruciating, tedious trip all anyone looks forward to, is a delicious meal made by their mother. It’s warm and familiar. It’s something we can just dive into because we know that it would be just perfect and comfortable. Food does more than just fuel one’s body. A pint of ice-cream is capable of mending a broken heart. New bonds of friendships are forged over a cup of coffee or tea (if you are into that sort of thing). And on a cold December night there is nothing better than to curl up on the sofa with a bowl of your favourite Comfort Food. It’s capable of providing solace, comfort, and the sense of belongingness.

Comfort food was a term first used by the Palm Beach Post they stated that adults under severe mental stress turn to comfort food for emotional support. They said that comfort food is the food which is associated with the security of childhood. The food you remember your mom making after a long day at school. It may be the snack you used to share with your friends in the evenings. It’s anything and everything that makes you feel warm and comfortable. So when an individual feels lonely or stressed he/she goes back to the food that reminds them of a better time.

A Recent research done by the London institute of psychiatry states that an individual does not seek the aid of comfort food only when faced with a whirlwind of negative emotions but also when happy (Cardi et al., Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015).this explains why cakes remind us of happy childhood birthdays, and popcorns at the movies are essential. Furthermore research also suggests that individuals tend to eat when they are bored. So negative emotions have absolutely nothing to go with over indulgence in comfort food. But in fact individuals eat different types of food in different emotional situations. Salt, chocolate, sugar directly play a role in making a person feel happier. Therefore individuals are biologically as well as psychologically inclined to self-medicate with the help of food.

A connection commonly referred to as emotional eating a coping mechanism which when over indulged it can be detrimental. The crash after a high carb diet or the guilty associated with emotional eating can in turn lead to the increase the negative mood for over a period of two days. Many believe that an individual’s need to belong lead them to nostalgic eating. People look back upon their childhood days, when they were surrounded with love, care and, compassion. Family get-togethers celebrations trips, all these memories are rarely devoid of the element of food. So even the smell of the food that reminds you of home, can lead you to indulge in nostalgic eating. Like every other defense mechanism or coping mechanism indulgence in comfort food is useful only to a certain extent.

Food is an inevitable part of our life. But it does more than just help us survive. Our dependency on food is as much psychological as much as it is biological. Food is linked to our happiest memories and comforts us in our deepest sorrows; and truthfully that bowl of soft creamy salty or sweet bowl of our favourite comfort foods on a cold December night under the blanket is all someone really needs to reset their lives.

Jui Kadvekar

Jui Kadvekar

IRIANS – The Neuroscience Institute 

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