Health and weight

Food and eating

We asked young people what they felt about food, and how they linked their weight problems with their eating habits. Many said that they turned to food when no one else was there for them; others were in the habit of eating a lot because their families ate ‘big portions’ at every meal. 
Eating and emotions
Many said they got into heavy snacking and binge-eating (eating a lot of food, in a short space of time) for ‘comfort’ when they were very unhappy. Others said they snacked and binged because they got bored and had nothing better to do. A few people found it hard to resist certain foods and felt they ‘had’ to keep eating, even though they felt ‘so ill’ and often guilty afterwards.
Many felt ashamed and embarrassed about their eating habits and hated the thought of other people seeing them eating or buying food. Some said that they thought about food all the time. A few people said they binged at night or when no one else was around to see what they were doing.
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Young people with bulimia said binge eating and purging (getting rid of food that has been eaten, possibly by making yourself sick) gave them a sense of power and control (see Obsessing about food).
Family influences
Problems were often caused by family routines or traditions about food and eating such as:
•             Family members dishing up big portions 
•             Parents not buying fruit or vegetables. 
•             Parents keeping lots of unhealthy food in the house
•             A belief that foods like sausages and burgers were cheaper and more filling than vegetables.
Many had tried to change their eating habits and were either losing or had lost weight. Several had found it helpful when other family members supported them by eating the same sorts of food and taking exercise with them (see Community-based weight management programmes).
Several parents said they understood the importance of providing a healthy balanced diet, but that persuading their child or children to actually eat healthy food was difficult. Some said their children stole food from the kitchen or bought sweets and fizzy drinks with their pocket money. Several wondered if psychologists would be more help than nutritionists and dieticians. One mother described how her father was determined to introduce his granddaughter to traditional food from the West Indies.

Last reviewed July 2017.


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