When we’re feeling sad, had a bad day or we’re going through a bad phase, there are a few things we can do to cheer up: taking a day off to watch a movie, talk to someone we care about, play with a pet, listen to music, eat our favorite food or all of them together. They all can bring feelings of safety, comfort, happiness and nostalgia. I’m particularly fond of food as a natural remedy. The soup a mother makes when the child is sick and cold. A chocolate cake that used to be a birthday favorite when we cannot celebrate as before. Or even the amazing feeling we get when eating something we think it’s new, and suddenly we’re pulled back to a time we didn’t even know we remembered. That kind of meal became known as “comfort food”.
The concept of comfort food is the food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone. It can be specific to an individual or apply to a cultural group (such as a traditional dish in Christmas that reminds us of that jolly and festive time). The main idea is turning food in a fast coping mechanism for soothing negative feelings. The desire to eat comfort food can be triggered under stress and produce relief from a problem or a distraction for the moment. But how can we see it in our daily lives? The experience starts in the ritual of eating. The smell charms our senses, gives expectation of what is about to come. Then the hands, the eyes and the mouth works together, and all those sensations activate our brain. Each taste, each smell of a delicious food that we like, activates our brain to produce chemical compounds like serotonin and oxytocin, responsible for the feelings of wellbeing, happiness and care. Basically, the act of eating a comfort food makes you feel at home, safe and loved.
Humans have basic needs, and feeding the body is a primal instinct of survival. Combining it with the substances we release while eating something we like, or the good memories it brings to surface, it also feeds our mind, soothing negative feelings, the so called heartache and working as a balm to our bad sensations. We are flooded with the feeling of home, a sense of belonging and connectedness with what we believe to be our essence, a soul. How about experiencing the grandiosity we feel with a sublime sensation of being better, where everything seems right for just about a moment? When having a bad day, try eating a bit of happiness with a big piece of chocolate or a big slice of pizza. And don’t feel guilty about it.
References: Why Comfort Food Comfort. ROMM, Cari. The Atlantic, 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/04/why-comfort-food-comforts/389613/
How comfort foods work like Prozac. RUFUS, Anneli. Salon, 2011. https://www.salon.com/2011/06/23/comfort_food_psychology/