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I'm Worried. Pass the Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

As if Americans did not already have enough to worry about in the current recession, along comes The Washington Times newspaper with information we sort of knew but preferred to forget:

In times of stress, we eat more and get fatter.

The paper's interviews with health professionals confirmed that there really is something called comfort food, and it's usually fattening.

A piece of cake or a triple hamburger offers immediate gratification and a short-lived feeling of well-being, experts told the paper. But indulge often enough, and not only don't your pants or skirts button so easily, but guilt, more anxiety and stress, and other health problems can set in. At a time when worried consumers are cautioned to cut back on spending, they can instead go wild at the store, buying that tasty, high-fat food that makes them feel better.

To compound the problem, a September survey by the consulting firm Booz & Company revealed that more than one-third of U.S. consumers have cut back on activities that cost money - notably including health-club memberships. That was almost four months ago. Things are worse now, and centimeters have already been added to many waistlines.

A North Carolina eating-disorder specialist told The Washington Times that there might be a glimmer of hope in all this anxiety and overindulgence. People's guilt is beginning to be focused not just on their overeating, she said, but also about literally biting into their family's food budget. When the strategy for feeling better makes you sicker and eats into your wallet, she added, maybe this will be . . . a motivation for recovery.

Maybe, but the newspaper pointed out that in 2007, when the glimmerings of a recession were beginning to trigger cutbacks and layoffs in industries across the United States, candy sales were already up 2.2 percent.

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.