Perhaps it is a rite of passage in love to experience at least one one-sided relationship. Having an affair with someone might be a retaliatory fix for the moment. It might also be your one-sided wake-up call that turns your life around…and inward.
What if the partner in your affair isn’t another person at all? What if you are having an affair…with food? Why even call it an affair? And what is it doing to your life if you recognize yourself in its snare?
The insidious nature of food as a mistress is that food is essential to life. It’s not as if you can choose to give up eating altogether, or never take it up in the first place. Food is always “there”, even mocking you where you are most likely to look and cave to the temptation.
What do you think of when you hear the word “affair”? Two adults sneaking away from their commitments to be with one another? Star-crossed lovers willing to risk everything for a few stolen moments of passion? All the collateral damage to innocent lives?
Having an affair with food is really no different. It is rooted in a deep dissatisfaction with some aspect of your life. And it is always a cry for love. Put aside your relationships with others for a moment. This is about self-love.
Having an affair with food will play out in much the same way that having an affair with a person does. You are unable to tolerate negative or uncomfortable feelings. There is a hole inside that needs to be filled. You just want to feel better now — you’ll figure out the details and damage control later.
The problem with “loving” food is that food doesn’t love you back. It has no feelings. Your love for food is completely based on what you tell yourself it does for you. “It makes me feel better.” “It makes me feel connected in social situations.” “It gives me something to do.” “It gives me something to look forward to.”
This personification of food has nothing to do with love and everything to do with your thoughts. Having an affair with food is the consummate one-sided relationship, and its consequences, sooner or later, will reflect that.
- Do I often eat foods I have sworn off, then feel remorse and guilt?
- Do I binge, eating large quantities of unhealthful foods in a short amount of time?
- Do I eat so rapidly that I don’t even remember what I have eaten or how much?
- Do I eat even when my body is not asking for nourishment?
- Do I eat even when I don’t enjoy the food or experience?
- Do I hide my binges?
- Do I eat while I am doing other things?
- Do I go on and off diets and exercise programs?
- Do I reach for food when I am feeling anxious or depressed?
- Do I never feel satisfied, no matter how much I have eaten?
The danger of emotional eating — of having an affair with food — is that it creates a cycle of overeating, followed by guilt and other negative emotions. And what goes better with guilt than a big opioid-eliciting, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate pie? And you can’t let your friends and family watch while you eat because you won’t stop with a reasonable slice.
You need privacy to binge. And that means isolation. And isolation leads to fear, loneliness, depression…and the quest for food. Suddenly you don’t have control of your eating — it has control of you. And it’s not even living up to its end of the deal. All you want is for it to fill the aching hole inside you, and it can’t even do that!
In addition to all the emotional consequences of having an affair with food, there are extremely dangerous physical risks. Because emotional eating usually involves high-calorie, high-sugar, high-fat “comfort foods,” it plays a pivotal role in many metabolic and eating disorders.
On one end there is weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. On the other end there are eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, whose emotional causes have a complex interdependence with their physiological consequences.
The next time you want to hide in the pantry and eat your way to feeling (temporarily) okay, pause, take a deep breath, and remember: Food does not love you. By doing the work of you loving you, food can return to its intended role of fortifying your body, while you fortify your soul.
We are here to help you learn to love you again. You can contact us here to learn more.