Karen's Blogs

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

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Social Isolation and Eating

A reminder of the importance in social relationships to help you become a “normal” eater. As Geneen Roth says so insightfully, in order to heal from eating problems, troubled eaters need to replace food with people. It seems that science agrees with Roth. If you are willing to do this, it will speed your recovery.

In “Loneliness, Social Integration and Consumption of Sugar-Containing Beverages: Testing the Social Baseline Theory” (R.E. Henriksen, T. Torsheim, ad F. Thuen, 8/8/14, doi: 10.1371/journal.pome.0104421) the authors assert that “Social Baseline Theory (SBT) proposes that close relationships aid in metabolic resource management and that individuals without significant relationships may experience more demands on their own neural metabolic resources on a daily basis when solving problems, remaining vigilant against potential threats, and regulation emotional response.”

This Norwegian study used self-reported data on “social integration and consumption of both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened sodas and juices.” Their results: “perceived loneliness was associated with elevated intake of all sugary beverages, while relationship satisfaction was negatively associated with all sugary beverages” and that “being married or cohabitating, having supportive friends, and having a sense of togetherness at work were associated with lower intake of two out of three sugar-containing beverages.” Their conclusion: “…loneliness and social integration influence the level of consumption of sugary beverages.” I’d throw in food as well.

Okay, I understand that one study does not a theory make, but it makes sense that people who cannot or do not turn to other people for help and support, might turn to sweet pick-me-ups instead. Food is never busy, doesn’t have its own needs, lifts your spirits, and is right there at your fingertips. I understand that those of you who turn to food rather than people do so because of your early experiences not trusting that folks will be there to take care of you. If they weren’t way back when, you may wrongly believe that others won’t be there for you today. Not true. Now you’re not stuck with people you’re dependent on, but have the whole world from which to choose intimates.

I know it may not be easy to reach out to friends when you’re down, but because you don’t do it enough. Do it more and it will become routine. Do it enough and you won’t think of turning to food (or sweet beverages) when you’re stressed or distressed. Think of food as physical nourishment and people as emotional nurturance.

Positive Self-Talk with a Twist
Solitude and Mindless Eating

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