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Housewives and Eating Disorders


Dr. Sheila Forman


food & cooking

Dr. Sheila Forman, a former practicing attorney, has PhD in psychology, and is a one of the first qualified Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training (MB EAT) Instructors in the world. Often characterized as having the mind of a lawyer and the heart of a therapist, Dr. Sheila has devoted over twenty years to helping people address weight and food issues by focusing on the emotional aspects of overeating.

Every woman has a different relationship with food. For some, it is a source of comfort, pleasure, or nourishment. However,  for others it can be harmful and damaging leading to a diagnosable eating disorder. Eating disorders afflict women of all ages. According to UNC Chapel Hill, 75% of women across all races, ethnicities and ages report disordered eating behaviors. Questions arise about how eating disorders affect married women and mothers.


What are Eating Disorders?

•      Eating disorders are diagnosable mental health illnesses with symptoms including excessive thoughts of food, body weight or shape, and efforts to control food intake.

•       The most common eating disorders are: 

•       Anorexia nervosa which is characterized by weight loss, extreme dieting, starvation, and/or too much exercise.

•       Bulimia nervosa which includes purging, taking laxatives, exercising, or fasting to avoid weight gain after excessive eating.

•       Binge eating disorder which is the frequent consumption of an unusually large amount of food in one sitting. 



How Eating Disorders Affect Marriages:

•       Within a relationship, the woman may withdraw and disconnect from her partner. This can lead to intimacy issues, both emotional and physical.

•       Because eating disorders are often misunderstood, tension can arise between the spouses which can lead to a breakdown in communication and/or conflict.

•       Some women with eating disorders struggle with trust issues and may come across as being needy or insecure. Their need for reassurance can cause their partner to feel smothered and/or irritated. 

•       This insecurity can drive competition and power-struggles in a couple leading to more discontent and friction.

•      Marital discord can also play an important role in the development and/or maintenance of eating disorders in married women. 



Moms and Eating Disorder:

•        The transition from being a single, independent woman to a mother can be difficult and cause a woman to find comfort in the familiarity of her eating disorder.

•        The struggles of parenting and managing a household can be triggers for emotional distress and disorganized eating.

•      Mothers with eating disorders are also concerned with passing along their unhealthy relationship with food to their children, and can feel like “failures.”



Treatment for Eating Disorders:

•        With treatment, approximately 60% of patients make a full recovery. 

•        However, only 1 in 10 people with an eating disorder will seek and receive treatment. 

•       Most treatment combines psychotherapy, nutritional counselling and medication

•       It is important to take the time to recover from an eating disorder if a woman wants to heal the challenges in her marriage. 

•       Just like we need to put our oxygen mask on first during an inflight emergency, so does a woman need to take care of herself and her unique needs first if she is to be there for her family. 



Helping Your Partner:

•         Here are some tips to help an eating disordered spouse:

•          Leave out the judgment, believe her when she says she is struggling, be patient and understanding.

•          Don’t comment on her eating or not eating, be supportive instead of critical

•          Allow her to lean on her. Over time, her trust and confidence in you and the relationship will build as they see that there is nothing to be afraid of.

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