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    I am a first-year associate at a large law firm in New York. By all accounts I am Going Places and will Be Something someday, but for now it's a lot of "skill building" like managing nitty-gritty tasks and doing document review ... I can manage my eating pretty well during the day, but at night I return home unsatisfied, and a binge results. I... see the direct connection between this emptiness and my eating habits. And I do just need to stare my frustration with my job and my career in the face instead of distracting myself from it with food. I just don't know how.

    -Letter quoted in "Women, Food and God" by Geneen Roth

    When I interviewed Geneen Roth a few weeks ago, I planned to quote her in a quick news item on a new study out of Finland showing that women experiencing burnout at work are more prone to compulsive eating and less likely to overcome it. Simple enough. Yet I put off writing it up. I knew the reason: research all the way from Scandanavia hit too close to home.

    Published in the April 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study looked at the relationship between work burnout and emotional eating -- eating when you feel bad -- or "uncontrolled eating," eating where a person feels unable to stop. The researchers defined burnout as a combination of exhaustion, cynicism, the feeling that your work is meaningless, "lost occupational self-respect caused by chronic work stress," according to the study.

    Of the 230 women who participated, those with burnout were more likely to be struggling with emotional and uncontrolled eating, Reuters reported. The women who weren't burned out were able to reduce their uncontrolled eating over time. The women who were burned out weren't.

    The findings immediately reminded me of the passage above from Geneen Roth's "Women, Food and God" and the reaction I had when I encountered it for the first time.

    I know Roth's work because it's been so useful to me in my own struggles to do something very simple: eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full. I used to berate myself for not being able to follow those simple instructions until I realized that while not every woman can relate to my bout with anorexia, the near constant thinking about food and weight is the norm for many.

    In the quest to resolve my own standoff with food, news reports on the latest research around food and eating usually aren't that helpful. They are often clinical, reporting the science, with perhaps some obvious advice tacked on the end - if I read one more time that smaller, more frequent meals is the answer to years of struggling with food, I'm not sure what I'll do - and sometimes they are even shaming. (This one on a study of women's "sneaky" secret eating habits -- conducted by that lauded research institution, the American Pistachio Growers, no less -- is a beaut.)

    Roth's work, on the other hand, has helped (and, incidentally, made me quit dogging self-help as a genre). She literally wrote the book on emotional eating -- nine actually. She has unlocked why and how women turn to food to cope with their emotions, specifically their romantic relationships ("When Food Is Love"), their spiritual lives ("Women, Food and God"), and their financial lives ("Lost and Found"). She hasn't, however, written about work.
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