In order to remain viable, trends must also be practical—hence why sweatpants have persisted since their inception into the fashion fold during the nineties. This is especially true on a college campus, where time is of the essence and one measures social anxiety on a DEFCON scale. 

Stress eating, the latest university craze this side of debauchery, meets all the criteria of a fad made to last. In short, it is a new coping mechanism for hardworking (or simply hapless) students who aim to appease their frazzled minds with a glutted gut and mouthful of whatever they can get their hands on.

The optimal time for stress eating is a four-hour window between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. It is at this point when the onset of night, coupled with the strain one feels when trying to finish a particularly grueling term paper or homework assignment, gradually transmutes into a gnawing hunger in both the soul and the belly.

There are, of course, many other ways to salve this dissatisfaction. Angst-ridden French poets like Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud went on long walks in order to glean inspiration from the Parisian gutters and to sort out complicated tracts of thought. Theodore Roosevelt donned faux-military or cowboy regalia and waged war with his fellow Long Island jet-setters.

Now, one may achieve the same cathartic effect with a bag of Funions and a can of Yoo-hoo (although, with this particular combination, it would be advisable to include a palate cleanser of sorts, like spinach, so as not to mix the pungent notes of onion powder with the languid ones of syrupy chocolate).

For many years, it was assumed that one needed high-grade comestibles in order to stress eat. Case in point, when the American stock market crashed in 1929, scores of ruined bankers ran home to their refrigerators to devour tins of caviar and imbibe Cristal out of the bottle. This, though, was just for show.  Stress eating today requires only the barest minimum of processed starches, sugars and psychological duress.

A bulk bag of candy or chips, rarely priced above $10, a sugary beverage likely to cost between $1 and $3, a blank sheet of paper where one’s homework should have been completed hours or days before and a feeling of blank hopelessness will all suffice (there is no available price index on the feeling of blank hopelessness, but hopefully one will emerge as soon as business and economic majors find themselves as existentially agitated as those in the humanities).

This simplified version of stress eating may seem rather novel.  In a certain sense, this assumption is disingenuous. One need only to investigate the late night culinary habits of Richard M. Nixon to find that Lays dipped in vegemite were a favorite snack of the President and other White House staffers after the Watergate scandal put their careers and reputations on the line.

Back in the 1970’s, however, Nixon had to plan accordingly; the only shops open throughout the night were brothels and pornographic parlors. What is so novel about today’s stress-eating revival is the abundance of 24-hour convenience stores and one-stop shops where one can purchase snack cakes and day-old donuts to eat with impunity as the clock strikes midnight.

There are still some doubts about stress eating. Many wonder if it is simply too modish to last. Those who doubt are, both fortunately and unfortunately, stuck in a past where gluttony was sin and the paunch was passé. Now they must recognize that said paunch is perhaps the sexiest way of taking up more space.

Eating your feelings is the emotionally healthy way to do it, anyway. At least, that’s what my therapist says in between bites.