editorial image

‘‘Do you only read books with a food theme?’’ my husband asked as he glanced at the three novels I had brought home from the library.

Meet me at the Cupcake Café, The Little Beach Street Bakery and Vivien’s Heavenly Ice Cream Shop were the titles I had selected.

Many people eat for emotional comfort

Many people eat for emotional comfort

‘‘Actually, that’s the trend at the moment,’’ I replied, ‘‘lots of recent female fiction has been based around women running foodie-type businesses.’’

I surreptitiously pushed Gino’s Italian Cookbook beneath a magazine before he accused me of being food-obsessed. And he would be right - food does tend to be foremost in my thoughts.

I settled down with my mug of tea and biscuits and began to read.

The novel was set in a run-down bakery on a tiny island where a girl had gone to recover from a broken heart. Baking and creating beautiful breads and pastries were her way of coping with stress.

She soon got back her self-esteem as her culinary delights made the bakery into a successful business and friendships were formed and lives changed through people’s love of her baking.

I relished reading the descriptions of the wild winds and raging ocean battering the bakery which by contrast was cosy inside, warmed by the ovens and filled with the delicious aroma of baking bread.

The book also contained recipes, as do many women’s novels these days. The publishing world has discovered that food-centred fiction geared towards women, topped with a front cover that looks good enough to eat, creates a surefire winner of a book.

As I type this, I am licking the chocolate off my fingers from a rather gorgeous chocolate éclair. I was beginning to write about the link between emotions and food and was about to cleverly blind you with scientific why-women-love-food stuff, when I suddenly remembered the éclair in the fridge. I was powerless to resist!

Whilst devouring it, the world melted away as the delicious sensations of cream, chocolate and pastry stroked my tongue, taking me into ecstasy. Suddenly, all the difficult feelings that plague me were forgotten.

I’m an emotional eater, this started two years ago when I suffered a bereavement. When that hollow feeling of loss comes calling I can usually dampen it down by filling myself up with something tasty.

Emotional eating is defined as eating large amounts in response to negative emotions. Let’s face it, there’s not much angst that can’t be anaesthetised by a big slab of chocolate.

The key to this could be a chemical called anandamide, which is similar to the compounds released when cannabis is taken; this is released in small quantities when we eat chocolate and creates a relaxing feeling.

When we feel emotionally empty, bored or unloved many tend to turn to food for comfort.

I heard a very unkind joke that goes ‘How do you turn a fox into an elephant? Marry it!’ It smacks of sexism, being that the word fox is usually used to describe an attractive woman, but there is some truth in this ‘humour’.

For many women (and men) once children come along and the mundane daily grind of domestic bliss sets in, we tend to put our romantic relationship on the back burner.

Life becomes all about getting the essential daily tasks done in order to earn money, get our children educated and survive.

The attention we paid each other in those early days of a relationship, before kids and perhaps caring for elderly parents, is gone, so we may find ourselves turning to food to nourish those feelings of abandonment. A time when we can lose our appetites completely is when we first fall in love. We are being so abundantly nourished by that new found love that we don’t need anything else, we feel complete.

According to research up to 43 per cent of people use food to alter their mood every single day. There is so much going on behind our seemingly unconscious eating habits. It’s not really about what we’re eating but more about what’s eating us. When we feel empty many of us eat to fill that emotional void, but it’s not fruit and vegetables we crave. We desire sweets, biscuits and puddings; these starchy foods give us a serotonin (the feel good chemical) boost to our brain, picking us up. It’s probably no coincidence that stressed is desserts spelt backwards!