Study disputes comfort food theory
A researcher at the University of South Carolina believes that people are not as likely as we think they are to turn to comfort food in times of stress.
Mmmm. South Carolina: Grits, barbecue, hush puppies, fried fish.
Oh, sorry. I got off track for a moment.
I'm not going to say this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. I'm going to look at the evidence and make an informed assessment. ...
Stacy Wood's paper, "The Comfort Food Fallacy: Avoiding Old Favorites in Times of Change," was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
In her work, she found that times of stress and change correlated with choosing unfamiliar foods. In other words, your significant other breaks up with you so instead of reaching for the carton of chocolate mint ice cream you decide to go for the eel at a sushi bar.
I don't believe it.
In one study she created a fictional student and then asked participants whether he would reach for a familiar brand of potato chips in a stressful time or a brand of British "crisps" in flavors like Cheese & Pickles. However, let me point out that these are both potato chips -- greasy, salty, caloric. That's my definition of comfort food, familiar or not.
OK, now that I've had my fun, and methodology aside, the research does raise an interesting question: Is it possible our assumptions about comfort food aren't always true? Do some of us take the opportunity in times of stress and negative change in our lives to change other things and have new experiences -- including food? Are we more open to broader change in times of change?
I should create a poll when I get into work asking whether readers are more likely to eat comfort foods or unfamiliar foods in times of stress.
(Photo of black-and-white cream pie by Lloyd Fox/Sun photographer)