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Thread: Comfort Food Is a Myth

  1. #1
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    Default Comfort Food Is a Myth

    For all you emotional eaters out there. What do you think of this study of comfort foods?
    New research finds that, contrary to our beliefs, such foods don’t have any special ability to improve our moods.

    Comfort Food Is a Myth
    Tom Jacobs, September 12, 2014, Pacific Standard

    What’s your favorite “comfort food”? You know you have one—a treat you use to soothe bruised feelings following some distressing event.

    Well, guess what: You’re kidding yourself. A new study finds comfort foods are no more effective at lifting moods than any other foods—or even sitting quietly without consuming a calorie.

    “Negative moods naturally dissipate over time,” writes a University of Minnesota research team led by psychologist Traci Mann. “Individuals may be giving comfort food ‘credit’ for mood effects that would have occurred even in the absence of the comfort food.”

    “Removing an excuse for eating a high-calorie or high-fat food may help people develop and maintain healthier eating habits, and may lead them to focus on other, food-free methods of improving their mood.”
    That tub of Haagen-Dazs may not have magical powers after all.

    Mann and her colleagues describe four experiments, three of which were similarly structured. At an introductory session, participants were specifically asked “What foods would make you feel better if you were in a bad mood?”, as well as other foods they enjoy but do not place into that category.

    Then, during two sessions scheduled at least one week apart, groups of students (100 in total) watched 18-minute videos composed of film clips found to elicit “feelings of anger, fear, anxiety, and/or sadness.” At one session, after filling out a questionnaire designed to determine their mood, they were given a generous portion of their self-described comfort food (chocolate being the most popular, followed by ice cream and cookies).

    At the other, they were given either one of the non-comfort foods they enjoyed, such as almonds or cashews (Experiment 1); a granola bar, which served as a neutral food (Experiment 2); or nothing at all, meaning they simply sat in silence for three minutes (Experiment 3). Afterwards, all filled out the mood questionnaire for a second time.

    “Participants’ moods improved over time,” the researchers report. However, they add, “this happened to the same extent regardless of which type of food they ate, or whether they at any food at all.”

    This finding held true no matter how much they consumed, nor how confident they were that their comfort food would be particularly effective. Belief in such foods’ power is extremely widespread: After listing their favorites, 81 percent of participants either agreed, or strongly agreed, with the statement “I am confident that eating this food would make me feel better.”

    These findings have obvious implications for diet and weight loss. “We found no justification for people to choose comfort foods when they are distressed,” the researchers conclude. “Removing an excuse for eating a high-calorie or high-fat food may help people develop and maintain healthier eating habits, and may lead them to focus on other, food-free methods of improving their mood.”

    In other words, we’ve just lost yet another rationalization for eating junk. That’s awfully distressing, but it’s good to know the feeling will pass—with or without the help of a Hershey’s bar.
    Last edited by Tina; September 27, 2014 at 11:33 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Comfort Food Is a Myth

    Here's a link to the actual research study, if you want to read more ...

    The Myth of Comfort Food.
    Wagner, Heather Scherschel; Ahlstrom, Britt; Redden, Joseph P.; Vickers, Zata; Mann, Traci
    Health Psychology, Aug 18 , 2014, No Pagination Specified. doi: 10.1037/hea0000068
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Comfort Food Is a Myth

    Hmm... I wonder if the mood of the participants was measured WHILE they were eating their comfort foods, or afterwards. Because I don't think anyone expects to feel better after eating, do they? It's only the eating that's fun.

    Also, it's not clear if participants really received their comfort foods or not. If someone claims that ice cream makes them feel better, they may be thinking of Haagen-Dazs. Then, if they're given store brand ice cream - well, that just wouldn't do at all!

    The bottom line imo is - it's really difficult to be unhappy while eating macaroni and cheese!

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