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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Comfort food: Solve your problems by eating them

Have your cake, eat it too

Nothing is more comforting than a strong cup of coffee on a bad day. Although most people wouldn’t call coffee “comfort food,” I do because I consume more coffee than actual food on any given day –– especially on my worst days. The smell of coffee brings a smile to my face, and the first sip always warms me from the inside out. 

To others, brownies, cake or something savory like chicken noodle soup bring out those same feelings of comfort. Whether it’s a family recipe or a favorite snack, everyone has a go-to food that cheers them up when they’re feeling down. It’s important that we allow ourselves to indulge every now and then, especially when it offers a moment of happiness. 

Health professionals have frequently warned us that it’s unhealthy to rely on comfort food to make us feel better, as “comfort foods” typically tend to be high in sugar and fat. But now more than ever, there are moments of sadness or distress that warrant a little indulgence in the foods that make us feel good. 

Yes, it’s critical we take care of our bodies. But in order to do so, our minds need to be in the right place, and sometimes the best way to achieve that is through the help of our favorite foods. In excess, anything can be bad. But every once in a while, we should feel free — even encouraged — to watch our favorite show and open up a pint of ice cream. 

For college students, comfort food, especially convenient foods like cookies or chips, is an easy way to deal with daily stressors. But a family dish that reminds us of home can bring the most comfort. Family meals are often associated with our favorite traditions, special celebrations and holidays spent with loved ones. For me, nothing compares to the comfort that comes with eating my nana’s chicken casserole. 

It might be because my nana is an exceptional cook, but it’s more likely that it’s because she makes it with love. No matter where I am, taking a bite of her casserole brings back all the memories we’ve shared as a family, making me feel at home even when I’m farthest from it. 

When it comes to our mental health, it’s important that we revel in the activities and pleasures that make us feel better. If that means staying in and eating junk food for a day, we should allow ourselves to have those moments. Of course, if the desire to have those moments persist, then we should seek other healthier ways to cope with our feelings. We shouldn’t, however, pass judgement on those who rely on a bit of comfort food when they’re down. 

Life is about having your cake and eating it too. Most days you’ll stick to your diet, but when bad days come around, you’ll need to eat your feelings instead — it’s all about balance. Consistently relying on food to feel better is dangerous. But every once in a while, on a bad day, our favorite food might be just what we need.  

In the end, all that matters is your well-being, and only you can determine what makes you feel good. By all means, good dietary health is crucial, but every now and then we can afford to ignore society’s health standards for a day. Whether it’s a piece of apple pie or, if you’re like me, a few cups of coffee, treat yourself. 

Written by: Kacey Cain — klcain@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie


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