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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Why do I overeat and drink when my husband goes away?

    My husband is often away fishing.

    I don't mind the time to myself, but I find myself overeating bad food and drinking a lot?

    Am I trying to make up for comfort in food that I don't get from my marriage?

    Am I bored?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

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    Alysha Coleman

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist

    Alysha is the Primary Clinical Psychologist and Director of The Institute for Healthy Living, a clinical psychology practice in Bondi Junction. Alysha has worked with … View Profile

    Hi there,

    I like how curious you are being about the underlying factors. We all have an inbuilt association between eating and soothing our internal world. It is often the case that we turn to food when we are experiencing an uncomfortable emotion or mind state - even mildly so. This is because, on some level, eating does work - it provides a behavioural and psychological distraction; as well as releases 'feel good' chemicals. 

    To get a more accurate answher as to why you may be overeating whilst your husband is away, it might be worth trying to more closely observe your experiences: What are you thinking, feeling and doing before, during and after overeating and drinking? Are there any other factors that make it more or less likely to occur? For example, over-eating and drinking commonly occurs at night time, when our willpower and awareness is fatigued. These behaviours also commonly occur when we are engaging in a behaviour that disrupts our awareness of the present moment; such as watching TV.

    Once you gather more information, I would recommend reflecting on whether there are ways you can address your thoughts and feelings without food. For example, if you notice feelings of loneliness, can you call a friend or a family member? If you are bored, can you do an enjoyable or engaging activity? 

    Susan Albers has written a great little book called '50 ways to soothe yourself without food'. Many people struggle to think of how they can replace the function food is serving. This book is full of ideas.

    If you require more input, I'd suggest seeing a Psychologist, or engaging with one confidentially through https://www.healthshare.com.au/connect/

    Goodluck!

  • Dr Janine Clarke

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Dr Janine Clarke is a Clinical Psychologist with experience working with individuals and couples. Janine has trained extensively in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and … View Profile

    This is simply to add to the really helpful suggestions in the previous post.

    Two things.  First, you mention that you eat a lot of 'bad' food when your husband is away.  Sometimes labelling foods as 'bad' and depriving yourself of them (if this is what you do when your husband is home) can leave you wanting them even more, sometimes in large quantities.  And if they are considered 'bad', then it makes sense that you consume them in private.

    It's a good idea to avoid being too restrictive and inflexible with your diet.  Instead, aim for flexible and balanced eating behaviours.

    Second, it might be helpful for you to practice 'surfing' the food carvings that perhaps trigger the overeating.  This means curiously attending to what is going on in your body (i.e., the sensations), and letting any thoughts that arise come and go, without responding to them.  Fairly predictably, the sensations associated with cravings will peak and subside reasonably quickly, and they rarely last more than 30 minutes.  You might want to try having a 'mantra' that you say to yourself during this period, e.g., 'this is just a craving and cravings pass'.  

    I hope this is helpful and wish you all the best.

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