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Everyone has a favorite food that brings back pleasant memories and those feel good feelings we all want to have. In fact, research shows that for a lot of foods it is less the taste of food but more the smell of the food that actually triggers those feelings. This is because our olfactory sense, our ability to smell, is actually most closely linked with the brain. In you stop and think about what we consider to be those foods that make us feel good you are typically looking at foods with a very pleasant and distinctive aroma.
In fact our brain makes connections between emotions and various inputs, in the case of food most strongly with odor, taste and the release of chemicals in the brain. If you think about what we view as comfort foods we will typically come up with lists like:
- Mashed potatoes and gravy
- Macaroni and cheese
- Apple pie
- Baked bread
- Warm cookies
However, there are other foods as well. These can include the very sugary treats and salty types of foods. In some types of comfort food there is an emotional impact on the brain which is chemically based and is not preceded by the input from the olfactory system.
For some people a comfort food can become a food addiction. This usually occurs when the individual finds that the positive chemicals released by the brain in response to the food provide a reward they don’t get anywhere else. In other words, the reward of the “feel good feelings” after eating is more powerful than any other types of “feel good feelings” in the person’s life. Over time the person finds that cravings for a particular food become overwhelming in order to get that feeling again.
Food addictions are serious and they are life threatening. If you believe that you have a food addiction it is important to speak with an addition counselor or therapist to make the changes necessary to take control of your eating before health issues arise.