Ice Cream and Broken Hearts: A Nonscientific Study

When it comes to breakups, TV and movies can be so predictable. Generally it goes something like this: a person (who are we kidding, it's a girl!) gets dumped or has heart broken in some way. Next thing you know, she's shoveling ice cream right from the container into her mouth like there's no tomorrow.

Now, I'm not arguing that this phenomenon is based in reality. Ice cream mends a broken heart like nothing else. Who could deny the fact that the cooling, sweet cream is like a salve on a hurting heart?

But really, it's not the ONLY food to eat after a breakup. In real life, brownies, cakes, cookies, and even a variety of savory foods can help the healing process. So why would the media have us believe that ice cream is the ONLY food to eat after a breakup? I mean, when is the last time you saw someone dig into a cake, or brownies following a film breakup? For crying out loud, Jon Stewart even presented that dude from Twilight with ice cream following his breakup with that girl from Twilight. So how did we get here?

Ice Cream

After asking around and internetting for a while on the subject, here's what I have come up with. 

It's all about the container. Seriously! Unlike a layer cake or a plate of brownies, ice cream can be eaten right out of the container (and often is, on film). The advantages of this are many:

Marketing Material.  This provides a fantastic opportunity to show a brand name whilst furthering the story. You can't showcase a brand name as easily on a layer cake as you can on a carton.

Photogenic and recognizeable. As my friend Julie says, "maybe eating ice cream straight out of the container signifies reckless indulgence, but it is more photogenic than eating other foods". True enough: while digging into a pile of brownies post-breakup might in reality be just as rewarding as ice cream, on film, they might just come across as a big pile of dung. The ice cream container, on the other hand, is universal. 

It keeps it hidden. Who knows what's actually in the container? Weight-conscious actresses probably don't actually want to be eating ice cream take after take, and the suggestion of a spoon in a container actually does the job without them having to consume. Take a look next time -- see how often they actually eat from the spoon as opposed to just holding the container with a spoon in it, artfully tilted away from the camera so you can't see what's inside.

Of course, ice cream as a breakup food is perpetuated by the media, but it got its start in real life. But why? Is it in hopes that the cool creaminess, which numbs the tongue and freezes the brain, will numb the pain, too? Or is it the fact that it's a food that is frequently bought in larger quantities that doesn't really invite questions in the same way that buying two dozen cupcakes might? Or is it the immediate gratification aspect--while baking up a batch of cookies or brownies when you're on the verge of a binge defeats the purpose, ice cream's a convenient indulgence, whenever you want it, ready to go and just taking up real estate in your freezer. Perhaps a little bit of all of the above? 

BTW, the phenomenon has even landed a spot in the Urban Dictionary as "Break up Ice Cream", defined as "The gallon of ice cream a female often indulges in, typically all in one night, after having conflicts with the opposite sex."

But whatever the reason, companies have taken note. Ecreamery, for instance, offers "breakup" packages, with a flavor menu with really just basic flavors rebranded in "healing" flavors:

  • "Chocolate Makes it Feel Better" - Chocolate with Fudge Swirls and Brownie Bites
  • "Love Bites" - Peanut Butter with Peanut Butter Cups & Brownie Bites
  • "Single is Sweeter " - Vanilla with Chocolate Chips & Cookie Dough
  • "Recent Breakup Rx" - Mint with Oreos

    What do you think? Why is ice cream the all-star of the media world, when it comes to breakups?