83% of overweight Australians blame comfort eating for condition

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Obesity Nutrition Australia

Australia is known better for its “ockers” than for its “emos”, though the country's current obesity epidemic might be fuelled by the latter category, according to a survey by a dieting company.

In research published to coincide with a national healthy weight week initiative, Cambridge Weight Plan says it has found that “emotional eating​” has been playing a substantial role in the rise of overweight Australia, with more than eight in 10 oversized Aussies blaming their condition on “eating emotionally​”. 

Ali Dale, a Perth-based psychologist from Shrinked, in giving her independent opinion on the Cambridge findings, said that stress and depression could be the triggers for a "vicious cycle​" of obesity. 

Over 90% of Australian women who struggle with their weight comfort eat, [and] we know that 86% of men who struggle with their weight comfort eat​," Dr Dale said in a radio interview.

Even if it's not a diagnosable mental health condition we know that if you're overweight then you're more likely to have certain hormones released into your system and you're more likely to look for high-fat, high-sugar foods​. If you're eating high-fat, high-sugar foods you gain more weight.”

Anti-obesity campaigns in Australia have mostly been based on a premise of "eat less, exercise more”—a message that Dale said was too simplistic.

"My hope would be that there's a greater awareness of the complexity of our relationship with food and that we start to move away from the eat-less, exercise-more type messages​," she said.

"There's a whole brain science behind what drives people to comfort eat and there's a psychology to that relationship​.”

The latest National Health Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 63% of Australians were either overweight or obese, with around 71% of men and 53% of women falling into this category.

The Australian Federal Government has spent more than A$100m (US$72m) in the past two years trying to combat weight gain and obesity from a mental health perspective.

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