Does Comfort Eating Decrease Stress? A Recent Study Says Hell No

Egis R.
4 min readJan 13, 2023
Image by the author

Fuck — and I mean this in all sincerity — comfort eating. Comfort/emotional/stress eating, call it however you like, usually comes from the need to feel better and results in overdosing on ultra-processed crappy foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar, and/or salt.

But does comfort eating decrease stress?

Since I started the post with “fuck — blah blah blah — comfort eating” you can guess the answer. Sadly I can’t stop at 60 words because Medium will go all no no no what kind of post is this we’re not going to pay you for this please write more sweary words. So I shall continue.

A recent study tested the efficacy of healthy and unhealthy comfort eating for improving psychophysiological stress recovery. 129 individuals were randomly assigned to three groups after exposure to a laboratory stressor:

healthy comfort food (all the healthy comfort food options were fruits and vegetables), unhealthy comfort food (all the unhealthy comfort food options were high in calories, fat, or sugar, e.g., brownies, pizza), or no food (participants simply waited for 5 min)
Image by the author

Immediately after the stressor, poor stressed-out souls did some testing to measure the psychological stress.

Then, off they went to the other lab room where they spent five minutes eating either “healthy” or “unhealthy” food to relieve stress. Oh, let’s not forget those who got jack shit and simply waited for five minutes. Nelson from The Simpsons would yell HAAA-HAAA at this junction.

After the All You Can Eat Thanksgiving Day was over, participants completed a series of questionnaires. The researchers also measured participants’ psychophysiological stress responses. Results?

Subjects who ate “unhealthy” or “healthy” comfort foods showed similar psychological and physiological stress recovery to those who just sat there passively without eating anything:

Study results
Image by the author

The researchers concluded that,

“For many, unhealthy comfort eating may be an enjoyable habit, but this evidence suggests that it is not necessarily any more effective at improving psychophysiological stress recovery than engaging…

--

--

Egis R.

I’m Egis, an online weight loss coach who has heightened BS sensors for fitness & nutrition. Only evidence-based & sustainable fat loss. www.absscience.com