The idea of comfort food, foods that evoke a psychologically pleasurable response when ingested by an individual, is not new. Your idea of which foods are comforting is somewhat individual and based on a variety of factors. The pairing of sustenance with comfort has been said to start as early as the womb. This pairing continues with the bonding created by infant feeding, both physical and emotional needs are met at the same time, and rewarding toddlers and children with food for good behavior.
Many families use food to distract one from or heal negative emotions such as sadness, loneliness, hurt, and even boredom. Many of my family members admit to using food to love and care for each other, trying to meet both physical and emotional needs. How often do we express gratitude and caring during holidays with gifts of food? Is it any wonder that we use food as a drug to effect both our physical and emotional states?How your family used food to comfort you will impact the foods that you crave in specific situations. Chicken soup when ill is pretty common. I have memories of making Rice Krispie treats with my grandmother on a fairly regular basis; when she was ill, I found myself with that craving. Other foods may be paired with family traditions or holiday celebrations.
The Food and Brand laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also found gender differences in the comfort foods we crave. According to the lab director, men are comforted more by foods that are prepared for them like meals and baked goods, allowing themselves to be both fed and nurtured. Perhaps this is why it is said that the way to a man’s heart is through is stomach and no one can cook like momma did.
Women, on the other hand, seem to prefer foods with more convenience, particularly sweets. Especially when stressed, sugary foods can give a quick boost of energy to help you navigate a stressor and think more quickly. Also, women often deny themselves sweets, so indulging in them can feel like a nice thing to do for oneself.
As we approach the holidays, being cognizant of which foods have emotional pairings for you individually, can help you prepare yourself for those cravings.