You’re walking down the street. You just came from work. This morning, you woke up 15 minutes before your alarm clock went off. Disappointed, you go back to sleep… only to wake up 3 minutes before you have to be at work. So you were late and your boss was also in a bad mood so you got yelled at first thing. As the day went on, you not only spilled your morning orange juice all down your nice shirt you specifically ironed for today, but you dropped your phone and cracked it so bad that every time you “slide to open” it leaves little cuts in your index finger. To top it off, your coworker crush didn’t even notice your existence today, except of course when you tried to make a joke that no one laughed at.
Ever had a day kind of like this one? I think its safe to say we all have to an extent at least.
What did you do as soon as you got home? Did you kick back on the sofa? Turn on the T.V.? Probably, but not before you took a trip to the fridge, took out whatever looked good, and then proceeded with the comfort routine. Why do we do this?
Lukas Van Oudenhove, MD, PhD, at the University of Leuven in Belgium led a study in which they “used functional MRI scans to chart the areas of the brain that lit up when 12 healthy non-obese individuals experienced sadness and then received an infusion of fatty acid or saline delivered via a feeding tube”. Because many “comfort foods” have a substantial amount of fatty acids.
They found that, “the behavioral and neural responses to sad emotion induction were attenuated by fatty acid infusion.” That means that when we consume things that are high in fatty acids, which comfort food usually is, the way we respond to sad emotions and other sad or neutral stimuli are weakened by what we ate.
Psychologically, another reason that we might turn to a specific comfort food is because that specific food might contain memories of better or happier times. For example, if as a child, you were given a candy bar as a reward for finishing your chores, and you remember eating that candy bar with your mother when she was happy with you for accomplishing whatever task you had set out to do, you might turn to candy bars when you are older for comfort when things aren’t going your way.
For me, its ice cream. Ice cream was always a special treat in my house when I was younger, and I don’t have a single memory of eating the delicious creamy goodness in a bad mood. I could only have had it when I finished my entire meal at dinner and hadn’t argued with my mother that day. So the special days that I did get ice cream, were always good days.
I know for a fact that I am not alone in this guilty pleasure. Ice cream is one of the most commonly thought of comfort foods out there. So next time you need just a little bit of comfort, know that Sub Zero will be there for you with all of your favorite flavors and mix ins. And if you’re gunna feel guilty for indulging, don’t forget about all of our healthier options, like low fat ice creams, frozen yogurts, and smoothies.