Eating fast food leaves many feeling guilty

We turn to fast food for comfort - then it betrays us.
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We turn to fast food for comfort - then it betrays us.

Young Kiwis tend to turn to fast food to beat the blues, then end up feeling guilty for indulging in takeaways.

A study by seafood company Sealord found a majority of New Zealanders aged between 18 and 34 reported they eat fast food when feeling emotional but then feel guilty after eating the takeaways.

Clinical psychologist Kumari Valentine said when stressed, the instant gratification of comfort foods was the reason many people are over-indulging.

"We block out bad feelings with food and temporarily experience good feelings," Valentine said.

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"Unfortunately, we then tell ourselves off for our food choices and we feel guilty. We then deal with the guilt with comfort food and the cycle continues," Valentine said.

Under 30s are most likely to feel guilty about indulging.
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Under 30s are most likely to feel guilty about indulging.

All up 50 per cent of Kiwis said they would turn to fast food after feeling emotional. 

The 18 - 34 year-old group then lead the way in regretting the decision, with 75 per cent of them feeling guilty after eating fast food .

They were not alone - 56 per cent of those aged 35-44 similarly felt guilty. 

Those who were most able to nosh fast food and feel fine about it were the 65 plus age group, with just 33 per cent of them getting guilty niggles. 

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The survey had 1017 participants across the country. 

Sealord's New Zealand general manager Stuart Yorston said the research was commissioned to help lift the health of the nation through good food.

"Preparing a meal at home and coming together for a meal around the table allows people to establish healthy eating habits for their family," he said. 

The study also found more than 40 per cent of those surveyed agreed that their health could be improved and 80 per cent recognised that healthy eating is important to them and their family.

Despite this, 79 per cent were exercising less than two and a half hours per week ? the recommended amount by the Ministry of Health.

Participants reported the top barriers to having a healthier life style were maintaining motivation (50 per cent), followed closely by time constraints (42 per cent).

Valentine said that social media may also play a role in affecting what Kiwis perceive as normal or healthy, which can also contribute to feelings of guilt.

"The challenge with social media use is that it creates a false sense of what is normal, expected, or healthy, and when our reality doesn't match up to what we think we 'should' be eating, we feel guilty.

"It's really important to listen to your own body and follow sensible nutritional advice that works for you," said Valentine.

She prescribed tactics such as slowing down, "becoming mindfully aware" and taking a breath and addressing your feelings during times of stress, to overcome emotional eating.

"For Kiwis raising young families, planning meals in advance, ensuring there's a variety of fresh veggies and having healthy, convenient and affordable meal options are just some ways which people can improve their well-being and ditch the guilts."

 - Stuff

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