Are we a nation of secret snackers?

A new survey reveals that more than a third of women currently on a New Year’s diet in the UK are secret scoffers. A massive 36 per cent – or SEVEN million – of the nation’s ladies watching their waistline are hiding food or eating it in the dark.

Handbags, under the bed and clothes drawers emerged as the favourite places to keep secret supplies. But they’ll also gorge on naughty foods in the car, walking down the street or even in a sunbed.

A spokesperson for LighterLife which carried out the study of 2,000 women, said the problem is growing – along with the population: “We are shocked just how much the desperation levels have soared compared with the same poll four years ago.”

The study of 16-65 year olds found 85 per cent have been on a diet in a bid to lose weight, compared with 61 per cent four years ago. They tried to slim down an average of eight times.  Alarmingly 28 per cent of women admitted that they have only stuck to a diet for 24 hours, with three quarters only managing to resist temptation for under a week. The average of the longest time to diet emerged as 15 weeks.  The research found one in six secretly eats on a weekly basis, and one in 10 does so every two or three days.

More than half (51 per cent) admit to lying about what they’ve eaten – with husbands (46 per cent), mums (45 per cent) and best friends (24 per cent) the recipients of fibs.  Four in 10 avoid the truth because they feel ashamed of the food they devour and 39 per cent knew it was the unhealthy option.  But three in 10 fear being lectured, a third left feeling guilty and a quarter were supposed to be on a diet. One in five have even used fast food outlets as an easy way to eat and hide away from friends, family or work colleagues.

The recession has also allowed women the excuse not to buy healthy food but munch on pizza (23 per cent), microwave meals (16 per cent) and chips (15 per cent) instead.

A desperate 53 per cent of girls have even felt they would rather have food than sex (compared with 31 per cent four years ago), with chocolate, takeaways and desserts the top choice to sway them away from the bedroom.  It also emerged six in ten admit to craving and dreaming about food.

Four in 10 see food as a ‘pick me up’, but one in five tend to reach for their comfort food when feeling depressed or stressed and one in 10 slump in the sofa with their favourite food because they’re lonely. But eight in 10 have regretted eating something which was unhealthy.

A desperate 36 per cent have thrown away food to stop themselves eating it because they are worried about putting on weight. An untrusting 35 per cent believe their partner, family member or friend has sabotaged their diet one way or another.

A spokesperson for LighterLife said: “Four in ten have faced temptation witnessing their husband eat something delicious in front of them and a quarter have been invited out to a swanky restaurant for dinner.  But if you do want your partner to lose weight, keep a close eye on them around 11am and 3pm, which emerged as the peak secret-snacking time.”