Stress on the job contributes to emotional eating and uncontrolled eating behaviors for women, according to a study in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (published online ahead of print).
Researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occumpational Health conducted a randomized controlled intervention study with 230 women identified as having health risk. Using standardized tests, the women were assessed for work-related burnout, emotional eating and uncontrolled eating at the beginning of the study and at 12 months. Weight and other anthropometric measures were taken. The intervention consisted of 10-week group sessions addressing goal setting, knowledge and consciousness of healthy behavior, problem solving skills and evaluation of behavior change. The intervention did reduce uncontrolled eating and emotional eating, however, those women with higher levels of burnout at baseline, still had higher levels of uncontrolled eating and emotional eating at the end of the study as compared to those who did not report burnout. The study is the first to show that workplace burnout contributes to emotional eating.
While I am not so surprised by these findings, I do find the researchers' recommendations refreshing. The authors suggest that health care strategies for women struggling with weight need to include assessment of workplace stress before addressing normalization of eating behaviors. And this has me contemplating a broader societal issue. Is widespread workplace stress hindering public health strategies to address obesity and overweight?