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Linda Mintle, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist, author of 16 books, a national expert on family issues and the psychology of food and weight. She's an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, a national speaker, writer, and news contributor.

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Rejected in Love, Accepted by Food

Ann was on an eating binge. It wasn’t because she was a compulsive eater or had an eating disorder. Ann was an emotional eater like so many of us.

Her eating was triggered because her boyfriend, Rob, decided to break it off. Ann was in the midst of grieving, but was not allowing that process to happen. She was medicating with food.

The body and mind are connected so when rejection hits hard, it is no wonder our appetites either leave us or kick in to gear so we don’t have to think about the present moment.

For some people, rejection makes it hard to eat. They lose their appetites and often find that food turns them off when rejection is present. But for others, food becomes a source of comfort.

People reject you. Food accepts you. Food tastes good and is a distraction from the momentary pain of rejection. And certain high-fat, high-sugar foods hit specific centers of the brain associated with pleasure. You really do feel better for the moment.

Think of all the movies you have seen of women diving into the ice cream or comfort food to ease the emotional pain of rejection. Comfort food soothes us and makes us feel better. The problem is that we can’t eat away the pain. Food only covers it up. And we can’t focus on grief is we are numbing our momentary feelings with food.

Better to grieve the rejection and grab your thoughts. “This feels terrible, but I can get through it. I am hurting but eating away my feelings is going to result in feeling worse later. Here’s where I need some self-care. Don’t add insult to injury. The last thing I want to do after a break up is gain weight and feel more rejection. Stay present!”

If you can stay present with your feelings and not escape into the food, you will certainly feel the sting of the rejection, but you will be allowing the grieving process. Then, as you see that you can handle the heartache, you won’t need to go to the food for escape. And you won’t be tempted to eat away your pain–an important lesson in coping.

So if you’ve been rejected in love, resist that comfort food. Stay in the moment, feel the pain, tell yourself that tomorrow will be better. Grief needs to be processed, and you will come through this with God’s help.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Friday, October 25, 2013 10:05 AM

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