Bored, depressed Britain driven to snacking by increased social pressures

September 25, 2015 | by | 0 Comments


Brits spend more than a solid month every year thinking about food, a new study reveals.

The study of 2,000 people explored our relationship with food and found the average Brit will mull over their hunger, meal choices and eating habits for an average of two hours and 13 minutes every day – which equates to 34 days every year.

The biggest reason to want a snack was shown to be boredom (47 per cent) – while over a fifth confessed to needing a sugar hit, or just to cheer up when sad or stressed. Social pressure to indulge at events such as birthdays or weddings (18 per cent) was also a reason for British minds to go into overdrive thinking about food, the poll showed.

And four in ten admitted their feelings over food needs tweaking – either by feeling less guilty when eating sugary snacks, or in contrast – avoiding seeing food as a comfort.

The poll, commissioned by Weight Watchers UK, revealed the first focussed thoughts towards food come in at 8.55am, while potential lunch options come at 10.33am. They’ll first wonder ‘is this good for me?’ when mulling over a snack at 11.21am – while the evening meal is first imagined at 1.03pm.

Zoe Griffiths, Head of Public Health for Weight Watchers, said: ‘’It’s great that we give food and mealtimes such prominence in our lives. With food blogs, health trends and new restaurants galore, of course food is an exciting topic and chatting about it can give us new and ingenious ideas.”

‘’But when it comes to our thoughts over food, it’s important to be mindful. Why we’re thinking about a snack, for example, is a useful question to ask yourself, as it could be boredom that causes you to eat mindlessly or stress triggering you to comfort eat rather than a need. At Weight Watchers, we believe that healthy weight loss is about more than just what you eat.’’

The study of 2,000 was part of Weight Watchers’ ‘Brain Boost’ campaign, to help adults understand the mental barriers faced when starting or maintaining a healthy weight loss plan. As part of the campaign Weight Watchers have created an online quiz to identify your personal approach to food, after which you’ll be given some simple tips and tricks that you can do at home to help tackle the barriers you face.

It found that 76 per cent of adults think and chat about food regularly throughout the day. Common culinary topics were hunger levels, deciding what to eat next, snack cravings or admiring the food of a friend or colleague. The endless list of food-based chat means Brits spend two hours and 13 minutes per day talking and thinking about eating, the poll showed that Brits say ‘I’m hungry’ an average of four times a day.

Weight Watchers has partnered with neuroscientist, Dr. Jack Lewis, to look at what triggers our brain to stray from the healthy eating path and offer ways to help maintain a mindful and healthy approach to food and drink in the colder months.

Commenting on the research findings, Dr Jack said: “I’m not surprised that these results have come to light; food has been one of life’s central pleasures across the world and through the ages. However, our busy and chaotic modern lives leave us overloaded with information and emotionally overwhelmed, causing our brains to lose discipline over simple decisions relating to what we eat.”

“By training our brains in advance of starting a healthy eating plan we can improve our cognitive flexibility and working memory which can help our brains cope better with the day-to-day bombardment, leaving us much better equipped to strategically choose the right meals rather than just relying on instinct.”

“Weight Watchers has gone even further in helping people be more mindful by showing them how their brain influences their behavior – ultimately giving them steps on how to stick to a healthy eating plan. The launch of Brain Boost comes at no better time as we head into Autumn, giving us plenty of time to re-evaluate our relationship with food just as the days are getting shorter and the urge to comfort eat is increasing.”

The results show that food really is love, for 59 per cent of the adults surveyed who said they talk about food, snacking and eating more frequently than anything else. In fact, over six in ten confessed there are specific people who encourage food conversation, with work colleagues proving the most snack-chatty for one in four.

While being health conscious was deemed a prime reason for Brits to ponder their food, 53 per cent blamed the influx of so-called ‘food porn’ available through adverts and social media. In fact over half (52 per cent) claimed that the abundance of food imagery they’re exposed to day-to-day causes them to make bad choices.

But it seems many take advantage of this deluge of info – four in ten said they go online for recipes and to look at pictures of food. While others look at food blogs, post photos of their meals to Instagram and regularly keep a food diary of what they’ve eaten, and plan to eat.

A determined 37 per cent admitted they make a conscious effort to think about something else, with 33 per cent calling themselves ‘food-obsessed’.

Head to to take a quick quiz to identify your personal approach to food and to find some simple tips and tricks that you can do at home to help tackle the barriers you face.

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