While it may be tempting to dip your hand into the biscuit tin after a messy break up, or a stressful day at work – for most people comfort eating usually makes them feel worse.
Comfort eating is often used to suppress negative emotions, but research has found that consuming food to address emotional needs can contribute towards weight gain.
Scientists at De Montfort University have found that listening to music can help to keep comfort eating cravings at bay.
Researchers analysed the number of snacks women ate after listening to different types of music.
The women were made to feel sad as part of the study, which explored how food and music can help combat negative emotions.
Participants who listened to music which evoked feelings of sadness or anger ate half the amount of chocolate, sweets and crisps, compared to those not given any headphones.
They listen to a number of emotional songs, such as Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, Eminem’s Mockingbird, and Linkin Park’s In The End.
Meanwhile, participants ate around a third less after listening to songs that provided solace, including Sam Smith’s Lay Me Down and Coldplay’s Fix You.
Dr Helen Coulthard, an expert in eating behaviour at De Montfort University, said: “If you’re feeling stressed and you’re worried that might lead to eating lots of unhealthy junk food, get your headphones on and listen to some lovely comforting music.”
The findings of this study can also help people achieve weight loss, said the expert.
While the relationship between music and eating is unknown, researchers suggested it could be linked to the release of feel-good hormones, including dopamine and serotonin.
Annemieke van den Tol, a music psychologist from the University of Lincoln, who co-authored the study, said: “I think the take-home message is if we’re stressed we might have the tendency to do something to make us feel better.
“And unconsciously we might grab food because it is giving us a positive dopamine, serotonin, boost that makes us feel better.”
She added: “But think about alternatives – like music (which) can equally give you a boost and make you feel better when you’re sad or stressed.”
Researchers asked 120 women to name a song they listened to when sad, stressed or in need of distraction, and this was then played back to them when they were eating under the trial conditions.
The findings were presented at the British Science Festival being hosted by De Montfort University in Leicester.