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Why You’re Eating ‘Bad’ During the Pandemic

Why are so many of us eating much more ‘bad’ food during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are we predisposed to reaching for comfort foods during times of stress?

What is comfort food actually?

When we need to feel a bit better many of us turn to “comfort food.” Many of us tie the idea to things like soup, warm blankets and starchy foods – which many of us connect to nice feelings of connection with our families or being taken care of in our younger years.Pay attention to the food that you order when you’re feeling “tapped out” – that will likely reveal what your comfort foods are.

But, did you know that there are some trends as it relates to when people consume comfort food? Apparently, there are some interesting gender lines. According to some research men tend to navigate to heartier foods (steak, casseroles, etc.) while women tend to navigate towards more “snack-like” foods like ice cream, chocolate, etc. There are also trends that suggest men are more likely to connect comfort food to positive emotions (consuming these things when they’re feeling good) while women head to comfort food when they’re experiencing more negative emotions as a way to cope. However, I’m sure you know many people who don’t follow those findings. I would argue that most people don’t in some respect.

Of course, comfort food also depends on the cultures in which you most readily identify. These can be specific to race, culture, and the region you consider most “home”.

Is comfort food really that comforting?

At this point, you’re probably screaming “YES!” at the screen. I certainly agree. What is really interesting, however, is that there is research that finds that maybe comforting food isn’t the all-powerful solvent that we think it is.

Why else might we eat comfort food?

By now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with COVID-19. Of course, there is the aspect of us all needing more comfort under these difficult circumstances, however there might be more to the story of why we’re seeking more comfort food now.

Comfort food helps us feel less alone and more connected.

For many of us who have meaningful, positive relationships in our lives (secure attachments) there is some research that suggests that comfort food also “activates relationship-related concepts” and helps us “buffer against belongingness threats”.

What does that all mean?

This means that comfort food also helps us feel less alone – less isolated. So the next time that you seek out your comfort foods you might also be feeling the need for more contact, reassurance and support. Instead of using it as a time to fat-shame yourself, eat your food and also reach out to someone you care about. Chances are you’ll greatly appreciate the contact and we all certainly need a lot more of that these days, don’t we?

Author: Jor-El

Jor-El is Co-founder of Viva Wellness and a foodie and film buff. He most often writes about mental health, relationships, food and mindfulness. When he’s not busy working, he typically can be found lounging or walking around NYC with his pup Nomi.

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