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Eating to Fight Boredom,
Stress and Loneliness

Have you ever eaten when you weren't hungry? Well, you're not alone.

Recent research suggests about half of adults turn to food in times of boredom, stress and loneliness. This is clearly an unhealthy way to approach eating. Instead of feeling satisfied and better about themselves, these people often feel worse.

A British survey of 2,000 people found that 47 percent of adolescents, ages 16-24, and 40 percent of those 35-44 had eaten because they were bored. A quarter of people ages 45-54 said they have eaten because they were stressed. Others ate after arguing with their spouse or partner.

Of those who admitted to using food as a crutch, one in four felt guilty after eating because of feelings other than hunger. Also, 25 percent said they thought happiness comes from being thinner.

The Eating Disorders Association called the findings "worrying." Experts fear this reflects the images society accepts as "right," making too-thin models and movie stars seem like ideal specimens. It also links negative emotions to food once again.

Researchers noticed a significant rise in young female patients, ages 17-30, presenting with both eating disorders and addictions. Such patients often are slightly underweight. They tend to binge and vomit, followed by periods of not eating at all.

Eating disorder experts said this cycle comes from constant mental struggles with emotions, as well as the physical battle with weight. Believe it or not, these symptoms can be masked and go unnoticed. Disorder victims usually get deep into the addicting cycle before help is sought or administered.

While teen-agers and young women have been susceptible to eating disorders for years, there is a new class of disorder victim -- the high-achieving, mid-life woman. Typically in her mid-30s to mid-50s, this patient seems to be organized and successful in most facets of her life. Many of these women suffer from either bulimia nervosa or binge-eating disorder, which serves as a dysfunctional method of coping with emotions. Problematic feelings include, but are not limited to:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Insecurity
  • Stress
  • Loneliness

Experts have long linked eating disorders to emotions and not food. The recent study in the U.K. proves that the theory applies to many eaters, even if a full-blown disorder has not developed. It is an easy path to start down but difficult to quit.


Reference Source 116
September 13, 2004



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