According to Webster’s Dictionary, “comfort food” was first used in 1977. It refers to food one has grown up with or food that simply tastes great. How does one define “comfort food?” The term conjures up different images for different people. What is comfort food to you may not be the kind of comfort food for other people.
- Culture. There are types of food that we have been habituated to eat since childhood. A Filipino will crave for adobo anywhere anytime. An American always goes for hamburgers or steaks. The Japanese abroad will always look for a Japanese restaurant for the miso soup or sushi. A Korean can’t go without kimchi.
- Convenience is the simple explanation why people warm up more easily to certain foods over others. The preferred food is simply easy to prepare or provides a delicious and easily digestible meal. Hamburgers, pizza, spaghetti or tacos are favorites. These are foods that one can finish in a few bites and they can be ordered off the counter or through delivery or a drive-through window at the nearest food service outlet round the clock. Known also as convenience foods, they have become fast sellers among students and office workers. Instant noodles are a popular midnight snack of Internet surfers or computer gamers.
- Emotional. Some people consume comfort foods for various emotional reasons: to relieve negative feelings, to uplift one’s mood, or to complement a happy state of mind. People who feel depressed have been observed to go on an eating binge, usually gorging on their favorite foods, to counter a downbeat mood.
The problem with comfort food is when eating it tends towards dependency - that is, when it is used as a quick fix or an emotional crutch. Why does this tendency spell trouble? Because an increase in dependency on comfort foods results in a rise in the number of obesity and type-2 diabetes cases.
That’s only part of the uncomfortable truth. Our computer-aided society has built inactivity into our lifestyles. This has given rise to a phenomenon called “video snacking.” We watch TV longer and our kids sit around computers for hours while consuming unhealthy meals. And every year we acquire more new gadgets that only serve to reinforce our sedentary lifestyle.
How do you solve this uncomfortable problem?
If you’re a parent and your child’s food choices have narrowed down to fried foods, sweetened beverages, burgers, and other high-calorie, high sugar items, maybe that should be a warning bell. He doesn’t have to stop eating his comfort foods. You just have to persuade him to expand his food choices and veer him towards healthier food choices. And get him out of the couch and into a routine that involves physical activity.
If you find yourself constantly stressed and therefore constantly eating comfort foods, it is probably advisable to fight the sources of stress. Emotional eating is altogether different from the occasional comfort food.
You need to make a little effort and be more aware of your unhealthy eating habits and make a firm decision to set yourself on a healthy path. Remember, you don’t live for food. You need food to live, right?