Clients often complain about stress eating and their problems with their mates in the same breath, but fail to recognize a possible correlation between the two. According to “9 ways your mate can affect your health” by Candon Sagon (AARP Bulletin, 10/16, p. 32-34), the man or woman you live with may impact your health—for better or for worse. Moreover, says sociologist Hui Liu of Michigan State University: “For men, the quality of marriage seems less important. But only a good marriage is good for a woman’s health.” Here are the negative impacts described in the article:
  • “Your spouse’s depression could raise your own risk of chronic pain.” This conclusion includes the caretaking of a depressed mate.
  • Although a female nagging her male partner may improve his health, this isn’t true the other way around. For women, “nagging is just nagging.”
  • It can enhance your health as a female, if your partner is optimistic. The article didn’t report that having a pessimist for a mate would hurt your health, but it might, if you’re constantly stressed by trying to get him or her to see the glass as half full.
  • “…the way you argue with your significant other could make you sick. If loud, angry outbursts are your arguing style,” you could be increasing your risk of cardiac problems. If you “silently fume or stonewall your partner,” you might be risking getting back or neck problems.
  • Contrary to what we might think, partners “who decided to diet together had a rougher time of it” as “one partner’s success could derail the other partner who then became less successful at controlling his or her own food portions.”
  • A mate with health problems puts you at greater risk, at least with type 2 diabetes, “possibly because of shared bad habits like poor diet and not enough exercise.”
  • Being a spousal care-giver of a stroke victim, “can affect the mental and physical health…not only during the first years, but up to seven years afterward.”
My point in sharing these effects on your health is to help you realize what may be causing you to stress eat. If you’re in any of the above situations, recognize that they may be causing you additional stress and find ways to lessen it. Maybe you need more “me” time, can change your way of disagreeing, or can get help in taking care of your partner’s mental or physical health problems. The more you know about your stress triggers, the better you can deal with them—without turning mindlessly to food.