Turning to Junk Food for Comfort: an Unfortunate Message to Young Girls
  • February 28, 2018
  • We see it in movies and on TV time and again: a girl is broken up with and soon, the camera focuses on her sitting up in bed crying, going spoon to mouth with a pint of ice cream, chocolate wrappers and an open bag of chips strewn on the bed around her.

    (Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash)

    This is part of the time-honored advice women share with other women – the societal norm to handle stress or emotions with food.

    “In our culture, we learn from a young age to avoid things that feel bad. Unfortunately, the ways we have found to distract ourselves from difficult feelings are not always in our best interest,” Psychology Today states. “Without the ability to tolerate experiencing life’s inevitable yucky feelings, you’re susceptible to emotional eating.”

    But what are these memes and hand-me-down jokes saying to the young girls and teens in our lives? Hey girls, if you’ve had a bad day of any kind, or are experiencing your normal monthly flow, it’s expected that you should eat some junk food to help you cope.   And oh, it doesn’t matter if you are hungry or not. You must still eat sugary carbohydrates to help you feel better because that is what all women do.

    This is a dangerous message to proliferate – 3.8 million people are battling binge eating disorder (BED), according a 2013 survey by the National Eating Disorders Association – 3.5 percent of women get BED and 2 percent of men. It’s most common for young women in early adulthood.

    These types of jokes have been around for a long time, and most of us are guilty of perpetuating them. We learned to associate consuming junk food with the proper way to deal with stress and emotions.

    According to Medicine.net, “Left untreated, emotional overeating can lead to complications, like difficulties achieving weight loss, obesity, and even to the development of food addiction.”

    We should talk with young girls about how to deal with the stresses of school and friendship dramas. What those in trauma need are people to talk to who will support and help them recover from the upsetting event.

    Medicine.net names a laundry list of ways to deal outside of the snack drawer, like “engaging in meditation, exercise, and other constructive stress-prevention and stress-management techniques.”

    I’m sensitive to the subject because I was a food addict and compulsive overeater for 30 years of my life. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Being aware of encouraging the consumption of food for emotional reasons is one way to help stop problem from beginning.

    Let’s stop perpetuating the jokes and language that pair negative emotions with food to the next generation. No matter how much ice cream, chocolate and potato chips you eat – you will not fill the void.

    Listen to the language you and those around you use that pair food and coping and encourage other healthy, stress-relieving behaviors in place of that. While it’s completely normal to overindulge once in a while, let’s stop promoting this as a way to cope.



    If you or anyone you know are dealing with Binge Eating Disorder or other eating disorders, find the help you need at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org during National Eating Disorder Week and beyond.

    About Ronni Robinson

    Ronni is a member of the Sandwich Generation; she's the tired lunch meat layered between two teenage children and aging parents. She finds hours of cardio activity and competing in triathlons to be less exhausting than her combined caretaking efforts. Although Ronni grew up in South Jersey, she was pulled over the bridge in to the Philadelphia area by her husband over 20 years ago. She's a little freaked out about turning 50 in 2018. She's also a little freaked out that her oldest child leaves for college in August; the first step to adding Empty Nester to her resume. She looks forward to a healthy and happy 2018, full of family, friends, and fitness.

    One thought on “Turning to Junk Food for Comfort: an Unfortunate Message to Young Girls

    1. Emily Gaffney

      Another great piece Ronni, with some helpful information. I went through a 6 or 7 year bout with bulimia in my 20’s. It was emotionally draining and exhausting . Fortunately for me, I unknowingly made friends with a fellow sufferer who turned me on to an amazing therapist (this was 30 years ago!) I don’t believe the term “Bulimia” had even been coined at that time, and certainly – no one was talking about it!

      I have two 20-something daughters who I am extremely concious about how I project my own body image in front of. Neither has an eating disorder (to my knowledge at least…), but both remember me talking about food when they were younger. Your article is right on – and young women have it tough enough with the false images of social media everywhere.

      Thanks for sharing Ronni


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