The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management, a program of the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management – teaching you the skills you need to keep the weight off forever!
Loneliness – can Food be our Friend?
Eating in response to loneliness (rather than to alleviate hunger) is one of the most common types of Emotional Eating.
Human beings (along with most animal species) are social creatures by nature – we need each other!
Loneliness is prevalent in our present-day culture. In times past, extended families lived close to each other, divorce was rare, neighbors chatted over the fence or on the porch, and kids played in the streets. Times have clearly changed. Even although we are better-connected than ever – by social media and the internet, and by cell phones – loneliness and social isolation are epidemic.
No amount of food can ease painful feelings of loneliness. When food is consumed in pursuit of easing loneliness, it’s like any drug that one may indulge in – it temporarily numbs the emotion, but once it wears off what is left is continued loneliness as well as – likely – regret at a minimum and sadly, but commonly, self-disgust or even self-hatred at worst. Food can indeed be our friend if what we are consuming is healthy, and if we are consuming it for the purpose of nourishing our bodies. When we eat in response to loneliness, however, we are likely not eating broccoli, fish, or apples – rather, we are likely consuming (or inhaling) high-fat, sugar-laden foods of the simple carbohydrate variety and with long lists of ingredients, most of which have unpronounceable names.
What then, to do?
- Accept that loneliness is an emotion, not a necessary fact of your life. In other words, feelings of loneliness are distinct from a state of being truly alone (as one might be if stranded on a deserted island – even then, one may be alone but not feel lonely.)
- See your loneliness for what it is – an emotion that serves the function of telling you something important (like many emotional states). It is telling you that you need to take action – loneliness is a signal for us that we need to make the effort to connect with others.
- Avoid negative, self-defeating thoughts as an “explanation” for your loneliness – they will only make you feel worse and serve to reinforce your feelings of loneliness.
- If you truly want to reduce your feelings of loneliness, you need to make a plan to live like a person who is not lonely – reach out to others, initiate conversations, get involved, try to re-connect with people you’ve lost touch with, strengthen your existing relationships.
- If you are shy, find resources for overcoming shyness and improving your social skills.
- It helps to focus on the needs and feelings of other people, rather than on your feelings of loneliness. Be interested in other people. Consider volunteering for a cause that is important to you.
- Seek out other people who share your interests and passions. If a particular group does not work for you, try another.
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta
With your continued health in mind,
Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.
Director, The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management
Creator, The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management
The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh™ is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.