Published: March 20, 2015
Happiness is just four Oreos, a bowl of mac-n-cheese and a cheeseburger away.
Many people find different ways to enjoy what they eat, either by having an emotional connection to it, or by the feelings they get from it, psychologist Jeffrey Schlaeger said.
“I think what you eat does have a psychological connection, to be food you remember from a happier time, or an event from your life or sometimes just to try to get yourself in a better place,” Schlaeger said.
According to Josh Clark from science.howstuffworks.com, males and females tend to have different comfort food preferences based on their gender. From a 2005 survey of 277 men and women, Cornell University found that females tend to seek comfort in sweet and sugary foods like ice cream, while males prefer savory comfort foods like steak and soup. The study also found that men tend to use comfort foods as a reward, while women often feel guilty after indulging.
Schlaeger said that there could be a tie between what the different sexes classify as comfort food, and why these results show up.
“There could be a connection of when girls are younger, (because) they get treats,” Schlaeger said. “Maybe guys did it in a different way; maybe it was a burger or that kind of thing. Guys are hungry, and want to be rewarded. We are meat and potatoes guys.”
Schlaeger feels like boredom also plays a part in eating habits.
“Unfortunately it’s a cycle; we eat, partly because we just need something to do, but partly just to feel better,” Schlaeger said. “When you do that, like when you start eating salty foods, all they do is make you want to eat more. Lay’s used to have the slogan of ‘No one can eat just one’. That’s all salty foods; not just Lay’s.”
According to Schlaeger, the changing seasons also affects eating habits that people have, which result in comfort eating.
“The Seasonal Effective Disorder is real,” Schlaeger said. “Lack of lighting, shorter days, less activity. I think sports are great, because no matter what you’re still forced to keep that consistent routine, which helps, but if you’re not committed to a routine where someone’s telling you what to do, it’s easy to let the days slip away.”
World History teacher Kenneth Whitney said that ice cream is his comfort food to help cure the winter blues.
“It’s cold and dark out (in the winter),” Whitney said. “Everytime it gets cold or we start having snow or a cold rainy night, I want to make a big pot of chili. Skyline Chili, and I’ll eat like five plates of it, then your stomach is full and you lay there. It makes you feel good.”
Schlaeger feels like people also tend to feel regret once they eat too much of a certain food.
“You feel good when you’re eating it,” Schlaeger said. “Then when you’re done, there’s some regret and guilt afterwards.”