Why Your Emotional Eating Is Destroying Your Relationship

Life Coach: Why Emotional Eating Is Destroying Your Relationship

In the last decade, food has become an exciting and entertaining part of our pop culture. More than ever, food is not just basic nourishment and subsistence — it is an art form and we have begun to understand how food and culture are inextricably linked.

Watch and actually observe any chocolate commercial, Chef TV show, or see an advertisement for the hottest new restaurant and you will get it. We are experiencing food in much the same way we experience sexual pleasure; it's exotic, erotic and decadent: a full sensory experience. As a culture, we are having a protracted love affair with food.

I am a foodie so I'm not antagonizing here. And now that I'm in my 40s and have two small kids, an excellent night out on the town is simply an amazing meal with lovely company that puts me in bed by 11pm. Sounds pathetic I know, but these days, I'm just pretty darn tired.

But with nearly 69% of adults categorized as overweight or obese, there are a large number of people who hear the phrase "love affair with food" and deep down, know that it is for them, more accurately a "love/hate affair with food."

When it goes beyond "love"

The spectrum for determining an addiction to psychoactive substances goes from "use" on one end to "dependency" on the other. Obviously with food we all use and depend. So it is the middle section of the spectrum that includes "misuse" and "abuse" that are the key areas for conversation.

Strictly speaking, if food is purely meant for nourishment and sustenance, we are all on the spectrum. As mentioned earlier, food is one of the things that make life so rich and vibrant. For instnace, chocolate lava cake is not on the food pyramid. But it is when the misuse and abuse is chronic, is creating detrimental side effects in your life, and is not easily controlled that there is a problem. 

Misuse and Abuse Can Look Like:

  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating for emotional comfort
  • Eating to avoid feelings
  • Eating too much (Compulsive Overeating)
  • Eating junk food or fast foods daily
  • Binge eating
  • Secretive eating
  • Mindless eating

Although all of these examples are unhealthy and can lead to physical consequences for you in the long term, these addictive behaviors represent a relationship with food that can at times be more important to you than the one you have with your mate, and even your children. The magnetic pull of this substance is so strong that you may be unable to pause, check yourself, and make a healthy rational choice in a moment when you are triggered. Food is your drug of choice.

The Impact On Your Relationship:

As humans, our emotional repertoire is an infinite and vast range. Many of the feelings we are capable of experiencing are unpleasant — no one enjoys feeling jealous, apathetic or worthless. But these feelings are information for you about who you are and what is important to you. They help you define yourself. Stuffing these unpleasant feelings down with food keeps you from knowing and being your complete and whole self — and, therefore of sharing that self with someone special.

When you turn to food for comfort during an unpleasant emotional experience, it is a missed opportunity to turn toward your partner for that comfort. Instead of sharing your inner experiences of pain, loss, grief, shame or anxiety — albeit, all unpleasant feelings — not only are you withholding that part of yourself from your partner, you are denying yourself the experience of being present with those feelings.

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The Likeness Of An Affair

I thought to compare this kind of food behavior to infidelity because for the would-be-cheater, the experiences are similar in many ways. You may experience just one or more of the following:

  • You are unhappy with yourself and your current circumstances.
  • Despite efforts great or small, you've been unable to create the change you desire in yourself and in your relationship.
  • You perceive that your partner is unable or unwilling to change to make you happy.
  • You fear sharing your true feelings with your partner.
  • Status quo, no matter how uncomfortable, is comfortable.
  • You don’t know what else to do to fix the problems you experience.
  • You feel lonely, alienated, and hopeless in your current situation.
  • ALhough you know it is wrong, you seek your escape and pleasure out of bounds.
  • You feel guilt, remorse, and self-loathing when engaging in the behavior.
  • You fear being truly known, yet you crave closeness and intimacy.

As we all know, even if in hindsight, affairs do not solve the problems in a relationship, nor do they bring the happiness one hopes. In fact, affairs further complicate an often already complicated situation and the fall out is devastating for all parties involved.

For many food addicts, the intensity and closeness of true intimacy is frightening. Fear of rejection, abandonment or being engulfed by another drives the food behavior or the turning away to keep the pressure off. It can be like pushing a pressure release valve to create a safe distance. Keep reading...