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Work burnout tied to 'emotional eating' in women

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During the work day, do you ever find yourself in the office cafeteria or in front of a vending machine, wondering why you're buying more food? You had a good lunch. You're not hungry.

But you could be suffering from work burnout, according to a new study.

The study, from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, found that women who are fed up with their jobs are more likely to eat for comfort when they're stressed.

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The researchers looked at the habits of 230 employed women, who were aged 30 to 55 and who had enrolled in a clinical trial looking at healthy lifestyle changes.

The study found that 22 per cent of the women had some degree of work burnout and, as a group, these women scored higher on measures of two behaviours.

One is developing an "emotional" eating habit (eating when you're not hungry) and the other is "uncontrolled" eating, which is "the feeling that you're always hungry or can't stop eating until all the food's gone," reports the Mail.

And here's an interesting twist: If you're overeating because you're burned out, the researchers don't recommend going on a diet. They suggest fixing the burnout part of the equation.

One reason they suggest is: "women who did not have job burnout at the study's start tended to cut down on uncontrolled eating over one year," reports Reuters. The burnout group was unable to make that change. Study leader Nina Nevanpera said that these women had a "hindered ability" to make changes in their eating behaviour.

While more of the women suffering burnout were of normal weight than their non-stressed peers, researchers point out that emotional eating is a risk factor for weight gain. And, depending on the food choices, poor health.

"Work permeates our lives," said Sherry Pagoto, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who was not involved in the study but who spoke to Reuters about it.

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"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."

Does this study explain all that food on your desk at work? Do you think fixing your work stress could help fix your eating habits?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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