Leaving your comfort zone for healthier eating? Situational factors influence the desire to eat comfort food and simulated energy intake

S. L. Mathiesen*, D. Moula-Stahli, D. V. Byrne, Q. J. Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

16 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

While scientific research has been largely engaged with untangling the psychological and emotional factors contributing to comfort eating, the potential impact of the physical eating environment on comfort eating behaviour has not been investigated. A limited amount of literature suggests that relaxing background music may lead to healthier food choices. However, it remains to be seen how the integration between visual and auditory elements of physical context – and their respective associations with comfort eating – might moderate the putative healthy effects of relaxation due to sound alone. The present study examined how evoked consumption contexts comprised of music (relaxing vs. stressful) in combination with location (at home vs. outside), influenced comfort eating desire, simulated energy intake, and expected hedonic reward. In an online experiment, participants (N = 399) performed a simulated pasta dish assembly and eating task in one of four audio-visual contexts. Results showed that desire to eat comfort food and expected hedonic reward were dependent on the interaction between music and location: more specifically, the presence of either relaxing music or home location significantly increased the desire to eat comfort food and expected hedonic reward, compared to when both music and location were not associated with comfort-eating. Furthermore, desire to eat comfort food was a significant predictor of the calorie content of the dishes. Our results highlight the importance of the interplay between multisensory elements and challenge the view that a relaxing atmosphere necessarily supports healthy food choices. This work provides insights for both industry and private consumers to promote healthier behaviour and more enjoyable food experiences through a holistic consideration of different components in the eating environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104605
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Volume100
Number of pages13
ISSN0950-3293
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Keywords

  • Comfort food
  • Consumption context
  • Contextual cues
  • Eating behaviour
  • Multisensory
  • Music

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Leaving your comfort zone for healthier eating? Situational factors influence the desire to eat comfort food and simulated energy intake'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this