After being dumped, or suffering some other form of romantic rejection, an adult male character will often be seen drowning his sorrows by consuming a lot of alcohol.
It is less common, however, to see women in fiction drinking heavily, so, possibly as a more socially acceptablealternative, a heartbroken woman will often be seen eating a large quantity of ice cream instead. It may also be a sign that the character has "let herself go" if this behaviour continues for several days or even weeks. If so, it will often be accompanied by other behaviours such as wearing pyjamas during the day and refusing to leave the house.
This sort of behaviour also tends to happen with single females around Valentine's Day, even if they haven't experienced any recent rejections. Occasionally, ice cream is replaced with chocolate or some other sweet. Sub-Trope of Comfort Food.
Examples from media:
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This GrubHub commercial. Well technically, it's a brownie and not ice cream but the general theme of consuming dessert to relieve heartbreak remains the same.
David Cross talks about "Patty from accounting" on his album It's Not Funny, whose perfect night includes "lighting candles and taking a bath, curling up with a Grisham and a pint of Chunky Monkey....and softly crying myself to sleep."
Advice From Pinkie Pie: Pinkie comforts Rarity with ice cream after her first time with her coltfriend doesn't go so well.
Earth and Sky: We only hear about it second hand, but apparently Apple Bloom's response to Pipsqueak breaking up with her is to wolf down five gallons of ice cream. There's then a bit of Reality Ensues here, as it's suggested that she was left very sick afterwards.
Extremely common in Glee fics, especially with Kurt as the heartbroken one.
In the hysterically funny The Avengers fanfic House Arrest, Thor, Tony and Steve are all reduced to eating ice cream in the cellar, hiding from Loki, after the trickster messes with them one too many times and rejects Thor's attempts at brotherly affection.
In the WWE story Better Off Alone, Molly Holly gets dumped by her boyfriend, Christian. That night, she eats a pint of ice cream in half an hour. Trish Stratus then shows up to keep her company, and brings more ice cream.
Miss Congeniality: Sandra Bullock orders a pint in a bar, which turns out to be a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream.
Scary Movie 3 "parodied" this trope with two woman discussing their relationship woes by spooning chocolate ice cream out of a container that's about the size of a washing machine.
Bride Wars: After Anne Hathaway's character calls her friend to tell her that she just got engaged. Her friend hangs up, and is so distraught that takes three containers of ice cream out of the fridge and devours them all.
Sherman Klump in the remake of The Nutty Professor is seen eating ice-cream, but his trouble is not a break-up. It's over his massive weight.
In Angel Angel Down We Go (a.k.a. Cult of the Damned), an overweight and insecure heiress (played by Holly Near) wolfs down a table-full of eclairs when she is confronted by a sexy rock singer and her own sexual frustrations.
While Shelly Long's character in the Emancipated Child comedy Irreconcilable Differences goes through a period of adjustment after the failure of her marriage, her pantries are stocked top-to-bottom with nothing but cake frosting.
Helen Sharp (played by Goldie Hawn) in Death Becomes Her over-eats sweet stuff after seeing her fiance Ernest Menville marrying Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep).
In Bewitched, Isabel eats ice-cream with Cool Whip after she has a huge fight with Jack and quits the show.
Obliquely referenced in the Harry Potter books via the Dementors, who are The Heartless / a personification of depression. A good way to recover from their presence is to eat chocolate.
Live Action TV
Mike And Molly: Both title characters overeat on Valentine's Day as a result of having a fight with each other.
When the girls act as "relationship tutors" for Chandler when he tries a serious relationship with Janice. They also add another piece of advice:
Chandler: This ice cream tastes like crap by the way.
Rachel: Yeah, well that's that low-cal, non-dairy, soy milk junk. We sort of... we save the real stuff for the truly terminal cases.
Monica: You know, when you start getting screwed over all the time, you gotta switch to low-fat.
When Joey has a female roommate and becomes concerned that living with her is causing him to turn more and more effeminate. When he confronts her about this fact, she notices that he is upset and immediately offers to get "a pint of ice cream and two spoons."
Joey describes the different 'phases' of getting over break ups, 'Phase One' being sweatpants, food and watching TV.
Referenced after Angel breaks up with Buffy in "The Prom", Giles responds with "I understand that situations of this sort require ice cream of some kind".
Gender Inverted when Angel and Buffy have their unseen meeting after Buffy comes Back from the Dead for the second time. It's implied things didn't go well. Buffy's comfort food is chicken wings while Angel decides he wants ice cream.
In an episode of Happy Endings Penny, depressed and thinking she would end up a lonely spinster, is shown in her pajamas and eating ice cream-during a lavish roaring 20s party at her apartment. Jane takes it away from her and she falls onto the couch and pulls out another. Jane takes the "couch ice cream" and Penny immediately picks up a tub of "floor ice cream."
Robin dated a guy with a small son and had to break up with them. When she was explaining it to the kid, she realized she got "dumped" by a six year old. She devours ice-cream and tells Lily that he was a stupid-head anyway.
According to Ted, Marshall breaks out the Ben and Jerry's whenever he has a fight with his wife Lily.
Lily does this after Barney and Robin announce they're not a couple (therefore ruining Lily's plans for couple activities between the three of them and Marshall).
In Perfect Strangers, when Larry explained to Balky that this is how people in America deal with heartbreak after Balky was dumped by his first love interest (who was just using him).
Data: I have observed that many food selections are influenced by the mood of the person ordering. Q: I'm in a dreadful mood. Get me something appropriate. Data: When Counselor Troi is in an unhappy mood, she often has something chocolate. Q: Chocolate... Data: For example, a hot fudge sundae. I cannot speak from personal experience, but I have seen it often has a profound psychological impact. (A waiter comes over) Q: I'll have ten hot fudge sundaes. Data: I have never seen anyone eat ten. Q: I'm in a really bad mood.
In Lois and Clark we see that Lois keeps a quart of ice cream with the lid off and a spoon already in it for just such occasions.
In The Vicar of Dibley, this happens when Simon dumps Geraldine, complete with the daylight pyjama loafing. By the time Alice visits she has cleaned out the whole supermarket-style freezer unit of ice cream she just had installed, leaving only the tiny half-pint that Simon had picked before she told him to get out.
On Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Jerry has frequently said that the cure for a broken heart is frozen yogurt with Gummi bears.
Girls: When Hannah's boyfriend breaks up with her, she goes to her flat and hits the fridge, taking out a pack of ice-cream.
In Lily Allen's music video to "Smile", she's seen munching on chocolate. The song is about a woman who was cheated on. She gets better, and takes revenge on him. His suffering makes her smile.
I lay there feeling sorry for myself on a bed of Kleenex / Stuffin' chocolates in my mouth, on the phone with my best friend cussin' my ex
The newspaper comic strip Cathy thrived on this trope.
On one episode of Happy Tree Friends, Giggles is seen dejectedly scarfing down tons of ice cream after being stood up by The Mole, who had both gone on a date with Lumpy by accident — and subsequently horribly killed him, also by accident.
Mulberry gorges on chocolate ice cream while struggling to cope with the death of her next-door neighbor, Brittany Murphy.
Welcome To Sanditon: When Ed doesn't protest too much and accepts to escort Ms Griffiths to the 4th July festival (it was his pushy boss Mayor Parker's idea), Gigi is worried about Clara because Ed and Clara were hanging our a lot and headed towards a relationship. Gigi suggests they watch bad movies and eat ice-cream together. Clara being an ice-shop owner, they settle just on the bad girly movie night.
In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Charlotte Lu brings cheesy movies and ice-cream to Lizzie who is a bit depressed because she thinks William stopped caring for her. They weren't dating, but he liked her, and now he hasn't called back after she left him a voice message.
The Simpsons: "Now let's forget all our problems and eat a big bowl of strawberry ice cream."
An episode of Family Guy has Stewie go back in time to prevent Kurt Cobain from committing suicide by presenting him with Haagen-Dazs as an alternative. When Stewie returns to the present, he finds an album cover with a morbidly obese Kurt riding a rascal.
Ben & Jerry's must be aware of their part in this trope, as they have an ice cream flavor literally named "Chocolate Therapy". (For the curious, it's chocolate pudding ice cream with chocolate cookie chunks.) Ben & Jerry's is often used simply because it's the names of two guys, which sounds like the woman in question is actually dating the ice cream.