Behind Closed Doors: Millions of Women Eating in Secret

If some women had a secret food camera, it might be surprising to see how much they eat. It might also be surprising how few women are talking about their emotional eating or binge-eating habits that happen behind closed doors. Recent research indicates that most secretive eating and over-consuming by women is connected to three triggers: stress from life, family or work; depression; and feelings associated with being bored. An additional factor of note is the strong guilt many women experience following a secret binge. Researchers from the  New Atkins Nutritional Approach study suggest that at least 24 million women in the U.K. expressed guilt about how much they ate in secret. Most have a negative or dysfunctional relationship when it comes to food. “Whether you are on a diet or not, food should never be the enemy,” said Linda O’Byrne, the study’s chief nutritionist. “It should be a positive and not a negative influence in your life. If this is not the case, then you need to take a look at your diet and also your relationship with food.” Not only are women feeling bad about secret food consumption, they are also living with repetitive thought patterns about food. A small percentage–about 5 percent of those who participated in the study–thought about food at least three times per hour, which still equates to more than 1.5 million women. Many others were noted to think about eating or food nearly each hour of the day and into the evening. However, it’s the denial or the lies women tell others about their food consumption in secret that rose to the top as a concern to researchers. This may indicate a strongly negative connection to eating and food, as well as a stronger likelihood of binge eating habits. “It may be an old cliché, but honesty really is the best policy,” O’Byrne said. “Whether it is being honest about how much you weigh, or your relationship with food, you will not be able to make a meaningful difference to your life without being honest with yourself and to others around you.”

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