Weighing the Merits of ‘Guilty Pleasures’


When women are stressed — they turn to food.  It’s their “guilty pleasure” suggests a new survey conducted by SheByShe, a women’s opinion site dedicated to sharing what women think about various issues.

The majority of women in the study (71%) indulge in some kind of guilty pleasure weekly — with “junk food,” chocolate, and eating in general at the top of the list.   In total, 63% of women surveyed named food as their favorite guilty pleasure over sex, spa treatment, alcoholic beverages or shopping.

Top 10 Guilty Pleasures Enjoyed by Women:

  1. Junk Food
  2. Chocolate
  3. Food/Eating
  4. Sex
  5. Spa Treatment
  6. Alcoholic Beverage
  7. Reading
  8. Shopping
  9. Sleeping
  10. Watching TV

You can read more in this press release.

Overall 35% of women said their favorite indulgence “helps them relax when stressed.” Another 35% said they indulge for “no particular reason at all;” 28% said indulging “helps cheer them up when depressed,” and 25% said their indulgence “helps them escape.”

SheByShe reached out to me to see if I would comment on the survey.  Here’s what I told them:

“This study reconfirms that women are juggling hectic schedules that lead to the common need to relieve stress and escape. Many women don’t need a trigger at all. They just want to take a moment to enjoy a special treat during the day.”

“It’s no secret that people eat for reasons beyond hunger, but feeling guilty or ‘bad’ after eating what you think is ‘bad’ simply makes matters worse.  Food should be a source of pleasure, not guilt.  Women should feel like they have permission to take time out of the day to enjoy a treat. When you totally ban favorite foods, such as chocolate, they gain more power over you.  So you’re more likely to over eat when you do give in.”

“When women learn to disassociate food from guilt, it moves them in the right direction.  Food should be enjoyed, not feared.  But still, it’s important to find ways to deal with stress and other emotions that don’t lead to overeating.”

I think women need to quit feeling bad if they take time out for themselves.  They need to stop feeling guilty over something they ate.  Guilt and regret only work against you.

A better approach is to find ways to incorporate your favorite foods and take pleasure in a treat.   A pleasure should be just that — pleasureable.  Let’s get rid of the word “guilty” in front of it.   Let’s lose the lexicon of “guilty pleasure.”

What do you think about the findings?

The complete SheByShe “Guilty Pleasures” report can be found here. The survey was conducted in January 2014 and represents U.S. women, ages 25-64, with a 95% confidence level, ± 6.55%, 224 total respondents.

image by Gabriele Li/StudioGabe

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