Women who are over-worked or bored with their career are more likely to comfort eat, a study has found.
Fed-up females seek solace in emotional eating and “uncontrolled eating” – or in other words, not stopping until the last biscuit has gone from the packet.
The Finnish researchers claim that doctors trying to help women lose weight should assess whether their working life has left them burnt out before they start dishing out dieting advice.
Some 230 council workers filled in extensive questionnaires about their working life and their eating habits twice over the course of a year.
The questions about their diet included whether they overate when they felt down, if they ever found it impossible to stop eating once they had started and how often they gave in to temptation.
They were also asked questions about work to assess their level of occupational burnout – defined as exhaustion, disturbed sleep, lack of interest in work, loss of self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.
The majority of the women were not classed as being burnt out. But almost 8 percent had mild burn out, 11.3 percent had moderate burn out and 3 percent displayed serious burn out, researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found.
The women classed as suffering from burn out were more likely to succumb to comfort eating and uncontrolled eating.
And while the women who did not display signs of burn out tended to cut down on uncontrolled eating over the year, the burnt out group usually did not, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports.
Sherry Pagoto, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said: “People may be in a job where they’re unhappy, or a marriage where they’re unhappy, and eating can become one of the few pleasures in their lives.”
Despite their unhealthy eating habits, the burnt out women were less likely to be overweight.
But lead researcher Nina Nevanpera said this did not mean the women’s lifestyle was healthy.
Comfort eating can raise the odds of weight problems and stressed out people are more likely to gorge on junk food than fruit.
She concluded: “Those experiencing burn out may be more vulnerable to uncontrolled eating and emotional eating and have a hindered ability to make changes to their eating behaviour.
“We recommend that burn out should be treated first and that burn out and eating behaviour should be evaluated in obesity treatment.” By Fiona Macrae, Independent Online