There's No Solace in Sweets - TestYourself Research Reveals Why Some Women Are More Prone to Emotional Eating
TestYourself.com's latest study indicates that certain personality traits and behaviors are more likely to lead to emotional eating in women.
MONTREAL, CANADA (MARKETWIRE) -- November 3, 2012
TestYourself.com, a pioneer in online personality, IQ, and career tests, has released its newest study comparing women who are emotional eaters vs. those who are not. TestYourself's research reveals that women who use food for comfort are more likely to have underdeveloped coping skills, deficient emotional control, and self-sabotaging beliefs that enable this destructive cycle.
When satirist Peter De Vries wrote that "Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us," he wasn't off-the-mark. The use of comfort food as a method of coping with the emotional upheaval of a breakup is a long-standing theme in novels and movies. However, for those who have made emotional eating a habit, the consequences are much more serious than a temporary calorie binge.
Although men are not immune to the sugary (or deep-fried) whispers of comfort food, TestYourself's statistics reveal that women are more likely to turn to food as a coping mechanism for stress and other types of emotional distress. Focusing their analyses on women specifically, TestYourself researchers conducted a comparison of emotional eaters vs. non-emotional eaters - and uncovered major differences between the mindsets of these two groups. According to their statistics:
- Emotional eaters are more likely than non-emotional eaters to have low self-confidence and a low sense of self-efficacy (73 vs. 15, on a scale from 0 to 100).
- Emotional eaters are likely to be depressed (89 vs. 23) and to experience anxiety (90 vs. 31).
- Emotional eaters have more difficulty controlling anger (19 vs. 73).
- Emotional eaters have less developed coping skills (27 vs. 71) and as a result, are more likely to feel helpless when faced with stressful situations.
- Emotional eaters are more likely to ruminate excessively about issues in their life (91 vs. 35).
- Emotional eaters are more likely to have an external locus of control as it relates to their wellbeing, believing that they are powerless to change their body and their health (45 vs. 79).
TestYourself's research also reveals that emotional eaters are more likely to turn to comfort food as a way to:
- Deal with emotional pain
- Mask feelings of shame and guilt
- Avoid confrontation
- Cope with loneliness
- Cope with boredom
"Emotional eating is a self-sustaining habit, making it a difficult pattern to break," explains Dr. Ilona Jerabek, president of PsychTests. "When an emotional eater is stressed and turns to food for comfort, the euphoria is only temporary. Once the reality of the calorie binge hits them - whether they see it in the mirror or on the scale - the guilt and shame can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, for some emotional eaters, it won't be long before these feelings trigger another food binge. Unless these women find a healthier outlet to deal with difficult emotions, they will keep running through this vicious circle."
While experts at TestYourself recommend seeking professional help for serious cases of emotional eating, they do have some tips to help emotional eaters gain a degree of control over this habit:
- Write down what you are feeling. The most effective way to uncover what triggers your emotional eating is journal writing. Try keeping track of your emotions or feelings before, during, and after an emotional eating session. You will probably see a pattern emerge. In time, you will be able to take note of negative emotions, to identify them in an objective way ("Ah yes, I am worried about that presentation tomorrow"), to accept them and ultimately, to let them wash over you. Remember that your emotions are in a constant state of flux. Desires (to be thin, to succeed, to be accepted, etc.), emotional suffering, and fears will pass if you don't allow them to take over your life.
- Learn to identify when you are really hungry. One critical component to ending the cycle of emotional eating is to re-learn your body's signals for hunger and satiety. This innate response has been lost on most emotional eaters - they no longer have the ability to recognize the difference between the biological need for food and the emotional need. Some tips for recapturing a sense of appetite include eating on a schedule, moderating caffeine intake (because caffeine inhibits our sensation of hunger), and eating foods that are nutritionally satisfying.
- Don't give up on yourself. When you experience an emotional trigger telling you to eat, you can fight it! A craving can be confronted head on by recognizing and talking yourself through the desire. Healthy distractions like going for a walk can also be beneficial.
- Delay giving in to the craving. It is important to remember that cravings, even strong ones, pass in approximately 20 minutes. Try to tough it out and take a moment to praise yourself for succeeding.
- Seek out alternative sources of comfort. If you're feeling sad or anxious about something, pick up the phone and call a friend or join a support group online.
- Exercise. Not only does regular exercise promote good health and high self-esteem, but according to research, it also helps battle anxiety and depression. Exercise releases tension and feel-good hormones. Try working out for a half hour or more at least 3 times a week. Keep in mind that you don't necessarily have to hit the gym in order to exercise. Get into a habit of taking a walk in the evening or during your lunch break, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or play music at home just dance! Choosing activities where you're outside is also a naturally soothing experience.
- Be kind to yourself if you do trip up. Remember, it takes time to recover from the habit of emotional eating. If you do overeat, let it go instead of beating yourself up about it. Sometimes, people who "fall off the wagon," so to speak, give up entirely in the face of one setback. Instead, just pick yourself up and vow to overeat less and less frequently.
Those interested in assessing their emotional eating tendencies can take the Emotional Eating Test at:
TestYourself.com is a subsidiary of PsychTests AIM Inc. TestYourself.com is a site that creates an interactive venue for self-exploration with a healthy dose of fun. The site offers a full range of professional-quality, scientifically-validated psychological assessments that empower people to grow and reach their real potential through insightful feedback and detailed, custom-tailored analysis.
About Psychtests AIM Inc.
PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts. The company's research division, Plumeus Inc., is supported in part by Research and Development Tax Credit awarded by Industry Canada.
Psychtests AIM Inc.
Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D., President