“Women lie about how much they eat!” says dodgy dieting firm

Few things feel as familiar to a seasoned PR watcher as a story built around a stereotype, especially a stereotype that’s damaging to women.

Whether we’re discovering women are addicted to shopping, obsessed with make-up or simply hating on their mother-in-law, a solidly anti-woman article is like a comfortable pair of slippers to those of us who look out for these things. Which is why it was impossible to turn down:

Women own up to guilt over eating habits

Boredom, stress and depression trigger secret snacking, poll finds

Millions of British women have eating binges, lie about how much they weigh and have a negative relationship with food, according to a survey. The study of 2,000 women also found that eating in secret is commonplace, with many refusing to tell family and friends the truth about how much they consume. Researchers said boredom, stress and feeling depressed were the biggest triggers causing women to eat more.

Three-quarters of UK women – 24 million – say they often feel guilty about how much they eat. Women typically think about food 12 times a day and those under 25 have it on their minds twice as much as those over 55, the poll found. Six out of 10 told researchers they had lied about how much food they ate, almost half (43.74%) said they snacked in secret and more than a quarter (27.68%) confessed to binge eating – this rises to more than a third (36.72%) of those under 25.

Still, this isn’t our usual fare: yes, the central point is that women are – in their millions – binging on junk food and eating in secret, causing an unhealthy relationship with food. That bit is no real surprise. But to appear in the Observer is a rarity – neither the Observer nor the Guardian are featured often in these pages, both holding themselves generally above this kind of damaging, flimsy commercial PR. 

Does the appearance of the research in the Observer mean this is more legitimate than what we usually see? Are there really millions of women around the country secretly fighting an unhealthy and damaging war with food and their own bodies? Is the research really more robust than the cynical PR we’re accustomed to? 

Well…

Linda O’Byrne, chief nutritionist for New Atkins Nutritional, which organised the survey, said: “These are very worrying figures that reveal many women are ill at ease with food. Whether it is bingeing, lying about how much you weigh or eating in secret, you must do your best to stamp it out. On a diet or not, food should never be the enemy. It should be a positive and not a negative influence in your life.”

So, that’s a no, then. In fact, the research which essentially tells us that women are not to be trusted around food comes from a company selling the Atkins Diet fad

We expect this kind of non-journalism from the Daily Mail, Daily Express and the Telegraph – you’re meant to be better than this, The Observer.