Cozying up to a new guy? Make sure his favorite foods aren’t part of the relationship. Guys are notorious for bad eating habits—beer, chips, and chicken wings, to name a few. If you’ve existed on salads and lean protein and suddenly find yourself on the sofa (what gym?) throwing back a rack of ribs, you may be headed for the boyfriend layer. Yep, that’s the layer of fat that sometimes comes along with the happiness, safety and security of a new relationship.
Relationships and food are complex and intertwined. Here are some other things about relationships that may be sending you straight to the refrigerator:
- If you’re single and yearning for a loving relationship, loneliness may be your trigger for overeating. Eating is a temporary mood enhancer and kinda sorta fills in for the companionship you desire. Except that, once the moment has passed, the loneliness persists.
- Breakups are the worst. The loneliness, boredom and stress of a breakup may mean you eat less. Usually, though, the sadness when a relationship ends is a catalyst for reaching for food—comfort food. A sugary snack or the rich, creamy texture of ice cream may provide an easy (and temporary) escape from uncomfortable emotions.
- Staying in a bad relationship filled with conflict and continual unease may be worse than no relationship at all. It’s hard to eat consciously when your mind is busy playing back arguments and mulling over suspicious thoughts.
- Boredom in a relationship can be a catalyst for emotional eating of a different type. Some couples find that food provides a temporary excitement when the rest of the relationship is dull and predictable. Their conversations and time together center on where and what to eat. Food stands in for what the relationship is missing.
What’s a girl in or out of love to do?
Get to the core of your emotions, which is sometimes painful—that’s why we tend to substitute food for doing it.
If you’re in a new relationship and experiencing the boyfriend layer, it’s time to bring your beneficial habits into the relationship. Prepare healthy dinners together and introduce your guy to your old friends—fruits and vegetables. Exercise together, and don’t limit your workouts to the gym. Explore mutual interests, like biking, surfing, tennis and running.
When it comes to other relationship/eating issues, the first step is recognizing the behavior. Get to the core of your emotions, which is sometimes painful—that’s why we tend to substitute food for doing it. Still, anyone who has suffered with emotional eating knows it’s no way to live.
When you experience a craving, ask yourself whether you are feeling real, stomach-growling hunger. You may realize that you ate only minutes ago and that you’re not actually hungry at all. With curiosity rather than critique, determine whether you are feeling sad, angry, stressed, lonely or bored. Jot down your thoughts around the feeling. This simple step can uncover the craving for what it is and help you become more self-aware.
The key is to make the connection between the trigger and the mindless eating behavior. I call it stop, drop and roll. Stop for a moment and identify the behavior. Then drop the madness and instead roll with the emotions. Notice I said roll. Don’t fight the feeling—that keeps you in the unwanted behavior. Simply acknowledge the emotion and allow it to pass.
For extra stress relief, try a yoga class or meditation practice. Both will reduce the amount of stress and increase your ability to deal with negative emotions that have you reaching for food when you’re not hungry.