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Fed up at work and trying to watch your waistline? Be cautious. A new study suggests that women who are experiencing work burn out are more likely to turn to food for comfort in times of stress. Find out what you can do about “emotional eating.”
According to recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, more and more women are overeating when stressed out at work. This so-called “emotional eating” is what you do when you are eating when stressed, anxious, or down rather than eating when you are hungry.

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A study that followed 230 Finnish women found that those women who were most likely to have the habit of emotional eating were those who reported work burnout. These women were more prone to what researchers call “uncontrolled eating” the feeling that you are always hungry or you can’t stop consuming until all the food is gone.

Led by Nina J. Nevanpera of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, this study was the first to show that “emotional eating” exists and that when you are unhappy with your job eating can become one of the pleasures of your life. These findings are based on women ages 30 to 55 who participated in a clinical trial that examined healthy lifestyle changes. Of these 230 women, all were employed.

The trial started off with the women completing surveys on eating habits and job burnout. Overall, 22 percent reported some degree of workplace stress and burnout, and as a group they score higher on uncontrolled eating and emotional eating. What’s more, women who did not report work burnout at the start of the trial actually cut down on uncontrolled eating over the course of a year. It was noted that the burnout group did not make that change but continued with the poor eating habits.

Nevanpera maintains that based on this study it can be concluded that occupational burnout is associated with higher weight. Surprisingly, however, half of the women who reported work burnout were normal weight compared to a third who reported no burnout. It is speculated by the researchers that the reason for this is level of education.  Regardless of the weight factor, emotional eating is an unhealthy habit and a potential risk factor for weight gain in the future, notes Nevanpera.

Five Tips for Improved Work-Life Balance

1.    Put some “downtime” into your schedule. When you plan your work week, be sure to schedule time with your friends and family and for those activities that help you distress.

2.    Stop activities that sap your time and energy. Instead of wasting your time on activities that add no value to your life or spending your time with people you don’t like, make plans that enhance your career or personal life.

3.    Reconsider your errands. Try to outsource any household chores or errands if at all possible. Have groceries delivered. Get the kid down the street to mow your lawn. These things save you time and allow you to recharge with fun activities.

4.    Get (and keep) moving. You may think that exercising will make you even more tired but that’s not true. Exercising actually provides you with a boost to your energy-level and improves your ability to concentrate.

5.    Don’t forget to relax. Avoid getting overwhelmed by relaxing whenever possible. Leave the office early one night and treat yourself to a hot, soaking bath.