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You know how when you’re having a bad day, you instinctively reach for a box of Krispy Kremes or indulge in a mound of fettuccine alfredo to make yourself feel better? Well, this sad attempt to soothe your broken little psyche has probably cost you half a million calories -- give or take -- depending on how many bad days you’ve had in your lifetime. And, says a new study, it was all for naught. Not because comfort food doesn’t bring you pleasure, because those evil sugary and carb-laden treats do, in fact, put a smile on your face. In fact, researchers have found that comfort food makes us so damn happy that we don’t even need to eat it in order to derive pleasure from it. Nope. You don’t have to look at it or touch it or even smell it. All you have to do is draw it.
Researchers at Bonaventure University in New York asked a group of mostly female students to draw pictures of cupcakes, pizza, strawberries or peppers, on an empty stomach, and measured their mood and hunger levels before and after the assignment. The pizza sketchers boosted their mood by 28 percent; cupcake artists by 27 percent; strawberry renderers by 22 percent; and the pepper drawers by a measly one percent.
This, they say, proves that simply seeing images of our favorite pick-me-up foods can pull us out of the doldrums. And if that were the case, all of those television ads that hawk gooey cheesy pizza and salty, finger-licking potato chips would leave us grinning ear-to-ear and completely sated. I can attest that watching commercials does neither.
This morning, I woke up at 5am craving blueberry pancakes, doused in butter and maple syrup. I wanted them so badly, it took me a good 60 minutes to push them out of my mind and fall back asleep. Needless to say, I woke up tired and cranky this morning and still jonesing for pancakes. So when I came across this study, I cried bullshit and whipped out my notebook to see just how gleeful a pencil-on-paper rendering of pancakes could make me. The verdict: not very!
Trying to find solace in a picture of blueberry pancakes, I practically drew myself into oblivion. And what I discovered is this: Drawing a picture of a food I'm craving when I'm in a terrible mood does not put a smile on my face but in fact causes the reverse.
The researchers say that their results add to growing evidence that just viewing images of food has a positive impact on our mood. But what if you're a really bad artist? When I showed my drawing to my husband, his response was, “It looks like a man crying.” Which is probably a pretty apt description of what I looked like, considering that I will not be eating pancakes today.