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Co-dependence and Dysregulated Eating

Co-dependence and Dysregulated Eating

Can it be that in all my blogs, I’ve never written specifically about co-dependence? I think that is the case, which is odd considering that it’s a prevailing trait among my clients—dysregulated eaters and otherwise. 

According to “6 Signs of a Codependent Relationship: Research explains why the ties that bind are practically unbreakable” by Linda Esposito, LCSW (Psychology Today,, 9/19/16, retrieved 9/6/19), co-dependency is “when two people with dysfunctional personality traits become worse together.” Suffice it to say that co-dependence involves poor boundary setting and maintenance, enabling unhealthy behavior, not taking responsibility for oneself, over-focusing on others’ needs to the exclusion of your own, and a general life imbalance around caretaking of self and other. You can read more about it online or in two classics books, Co-dependent No More by Beattie or Facing Co-dependence by Mellody. 

For now, I want to talk about how co-dependence and eating disorders go together. In a nutshell, if you spend a great deal of time and energy taking care of others, you may neglect your own needs and turn to food to meet them. My book, Nice Girls Finish Fat—Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever, is all about personality traits that link with dysregulated eating. Many “nice girls” and “nice guys” are co-dependent due to some of these traits, including wanting others’ approval. If you’re a people-pleaser, it’s worth wondering if you’re also co-dependent, that is, you’re not happy unless someone else is happy with you.

Dysregulated eaters are often enablers: Their behavior supports the unhealthy behavior of others. This occurs when someone has an addiction and you protect or compensate for them. Maybe you pretend someone isn’t addicted or abusive, so that he doesn’t need to face the consequences of his behavior. Or maybe you lie to her, others and yourself so you don’t need to face the reality the truth about someone’s pathology. 

Too often you may do for others what you would like done for you. You give others the caring that you would like to receive and keep hoping for reciprocity, but don’t get it back. Most of the time co-dependence is an unconscious dynamic, but people continue it even when they realize it’s going on because they’re afraid of rocking the boat and facing their own deep-seated issues. If you take care of yourself with food and think you may be co-dependent, learn more about the subject so that you can change.




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