When it comes to emotional eating, men have nothing on us women. Come to Aquarius HQ at 3pm (and on some days at 9am) on any day of the week and you’ll witness a mass demonstration of internal struggle like you have never seen. Each team member battling it out against herself – will she, or will she not succumb to the sugar craving? Will she stay strong in the face of adversity (biscuits/cake/chocolates/macaroons), or will her resolve crumble like the chocolate Hobnob she is drooling over?
Honestly, drop a packet of biscuits amongst us and we stare at it suspiciously and approach with extreme caution. It’s as if we are being lured in by the hypnotising snake Kaa from The Jungle Book or as if David Blaine himself is inside the packet, mind-tricking us. We then go through a painful tug of war, trying to resist the temptation that has been placed before us. It wasn’t there two minutes ago and you were fine sitting, and working, and getting on with your day. You were absolutely fine. So why has the arrival of a sugary treat diverted your concentration and turned you into a highly-strung, nervous wreck? Why? By which point you’ve swivelled in your chair and yelled, “WILL SOMEONE PASS ME A BISCUIT. IMMEDIATELY. PLEASE,” as if your body has been taken over by someone else, like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, and you have resigned yourself to your fate: You will have the biscuit, and you will indeed be fat.
Have you ever heard a group of guys stressing over a packet of biscuits like this? When we offer the men in our office a biscuit (which happens rarely), they say, “Oooh yes please.” Or, “Ahh, no thanks.” No explanations. No internal struggle. No changing of mind 10 minutes later when their internal good cop has run out of steam. Just a simple yes or no.
Where does this come from? And why do we spend so much time worrying about the exercise classes we must go to if we are ever going to wear the clothes we would like to, and the calorie-laden coffee and croissant we had at breakfast, which we now need to compensate for by eating thin air for lunch. According to various studies, women worry about their weight and appearance 36 times per day; that’s approximately every 21 minutes. Which is nearly 130 hours over the course of a year... What are men doing with all that time that we are wasting on worries about our weight? Who knows. All we know is that it’s a tragedy we do it.
A talk amongst ourselves on this issue (over tea and biscuits, naturally) concluded that, while we may never be able to rid ourselves completely of body image stress and weight-related anxiety, we can try not to trigger it in others.
One team member has a friend who is very self-controlled about her eating indulgences. However, whenever she does succumb, she follows it up 10 minutes later with a “I wish I hadn’t eaten that. I feel really sick now.” Which instantly makes our girl feel guilty too – like she needs to justify why she ate it (“I am going for a run later”), or worse, like she needs to say she also feels sick.
Another team member recalls how her mum was constantly on a diet – in fact a few of us suffered this deeply damaging form of subliminal messaging as a child. The result was a teenage- and adulthood thwarted by eating nervosa, guilt about food and an almost phobic fear of putting on weight.
And don’t get us started on the salad pressure when out for lunch or dinner with friends and other groups of women, where you know that even if you stick to your guns and order the burger, it will come served with a side order of guilt and an invisible badge screaming ‘GLUTTON’ which you will feel awful about for the rest of the day and see shining in the eyes of all the pious salad-eaters. It kind of takes the fun out of the experience. (By the way, this is why it’s way more fun to eat burgers with men than with women).
Bottom line is this: if you feel guilty about the food you are eating, or negative about the size of your thighs, we empathise and feel your pain. But do us a favour and keep it to yourself – at least while the biscuit is still in our mouths. We’ve got our own 21 minutes of body stress to deal with today, we don’t want to deal with two minutes of yours too. So, either eat it, or don’t. We don’t mind either way. But whatever you do, please let us enjoy our biscuits in peace. Thank you.
Many biscuits were harmed in the making of this column.