The Comfort Foods That Aren’t Comforting

By Ben Hamill - May 29 2020
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The Comfort Foods That Aren’t Comforting

Ever notice how comfort food meant to make you feel ‘better’ and, well, comforted, often only does the trick for literally a couple of minutes before the familiar old lag, slug and bad mood sets in as if with renewed vengeance? Experts explain that the reason behind the unwanted, and certainly opposite, reaction is that of our typical favourite comfort foods (mom’s sugar-crammed cookies, a something off the old ice-cream truck, the list goes on) may taste swell in the moment, but severely lack and/or ideal real nutritional value, hence the slug. 

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Starch-, sugar- and refined carbohydrate- overkill is according to nutritional therapist Claudia Smith, the main culprit. These foodstuffs are common contributors to a low mood, feelings of inexplicable irritability, fatigue, brain fog and even anxiety.

We Did Not Come Here To Suffer

But why can’t we simply enjoy wolfing down a tub of ice-cream or the old greasy envelope of French fries without having to pay the dowry in guilt? According to Smith and the rest of those in the know, comfort foods high in sugar and refined carbs are not all that different to a happy canine chasing a car. The entire thing is a mad rush of blood to the head in the moment, but a massive disappointment once the ‘goal’ has been reached.

Typical comfort foods act as reward triggers in our brains, explains Smith. Even though they do prove effective at making us feel good for a short while, that boosting feeling isn’t at all lasting. In fact, its shamelessly fleeting. This according to UK-based psychologist Lee Chambers, who goes on to explain that emotional eating is indeed what Chambers refers to as a ‘cyclical’ process. Low mood leads to eating foods high in sugar, which in turn leads to a fleeting spike in dopamine, after which our sugar crashes and the entire thing comes crashing down into one massive and muddy pool of shame, regret and self-pity. The term anti-climax comes to mind.

Identifying The Culprits

Comfort foods most likely to induce a low or outright filthy bad mood include those that typically cause sugar spikes, including alcohol, soda, caffeine, baked (sweet) goods, French fries and other typical fast food lines, and processed foods (yes, processed foods do indeed include pizza bites and pop tarts!).

The trick, as with everything else, is of course, moderation, says registered UK dietician Tai Ibitoye. Small amounts and portions are generally harmless, explains Ibitoye, whereas going overboard is where our problems begin.

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