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Why is food addiction different?


WhatThe

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I posted in "long-term relationships" a few months ago about my wife's weight problem.

 

In short, she weighs 100lb more than when we met, is 70lb heavier than me, and is at least 50lb over the obesity definition for her height and build. We are both in our mid-40's. I am in good shape, and keep myself that way through diet and exercise.

 

She has been checked out medically numerous times. There is no medical reason for her issue. She just eats way too much, and doesn't exercise. She blames 'heredity'. I point out that the real hereditary issues in her family are diabetes, breast cancer and heart disease, all of which are much more prevalent among the obese, and all of which are problems among her parents and siblings.

 

In my opinion, she is a food addict just as surely as someone is a drug addict, an alcoholic, or someone with a gambling problem. Yet in the responses to my post on the relationship forum, most of the advice was to try to not hurt her feelings too much, and to accept the way she is.

 

Why should I be worried about accepting her or not hurting her feelings? Her condition is just as serious as alcoholism, drug addiction or any other addiction. We are a facing a life of hell as she ages unless something changes. Our lives have already been radically altered, because every single activity has to be filtered through her obesity, from traveling on an airplane to going to a movie to attending a wedding. Our sex life is zero. Our social life is close to zero. I am embarrased to be seen with her.

 

This change did not occur overnight. I have been trying for 15 years to get her to look in the mirror. She has been in counseling, I tried hiring a personal trainer. I've tried everything.

 

Food addiction is every bit as devastating to a relationship as alcoholism. So why is it treated differently?

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To me, when she started gaining, you should have communicated your dissatisfaction then. There are always bumps along the way but you made a promise: 'for better or for worse'. Not many people take their vows seriously these days, but they are supposed to mean what they promise.

You should communicate to her and get her to exercize. Personally, I'd nag her every day to go jogging with you. Its so sad that you feel embarrassed of your own wife...you're supposed to love your wife not feel that way about her.

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To me, when she started gaining, you should have communicated your dissatisfaction then. There are always bumps along the way but you made a promise: 'for better or for worse'. Not many people take their vows seriously these days, but they are supposed to mean what they promise.

You should communicate to her and get her to exercize. Personally, I'd nag her every day to go jogging with you. Its so sad that you feel embarrassed of your own wife...you're supposed to love your wife not feel that way about her.

 

Excuse me, but I just have to respond.

 

Did you miss the part about I've been trying for fifteen years to get her to exercise and lose weight?

 

Nag her to go jogging? Do you really think a woman who weighs 240lb is a good candidate to take up jogging?

 

I saw this kind of apparent misunderstanding in the other thread, and I guess I should have anticipated it. Let me paint the picture. 45 years old, 5' 9", TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY POUNDS, at a minimum. I suspect she is actually heavier, but she hasn't allowed a scale in the house for at least ten years.

 

Please base your responses on this reality.

 

The question is: "Why is food addiction treated differently from other addictions?" If she was a drug addict or alcoholic, would you be posting about a few bumps along the way and keeping vows?

 

Again, why is food addiction treated differently? It is just as deadly to a person and to a relationship as drug or alcohol addiction.

 

Thank you.

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simply put food addiction is looked at as 'less endangering' yes, when someone shoves a twinkie in their mouth its not the same as a bottle of liquer or the barrel of a gun. its damage isnt so immediate. and our bodies were to an extent made to carry a certain amount of fat.

thats just a reason i can think of to why its not taken seriously. i'm not diluting your problem, i think what she has put herself through is terrible. you have my sympathies.

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Again, why is food addiction treated differently? It is just as deadly to a person and to a relationship as drug or alcohol addiction.

 

Thank you.

 

I think food addicition is treated differently for a number of different reasons

 

1.) More socially acceptable. So many people in the West are over weight that it just seems "normal" almost.

 

2.) One can quite quickly see the degradation and chaos caused by a drug addiction or alcoholism, but it's not so obvious with food addiction (easier to hide the effects I suppose)

 

3.) With a food addiction, if you kick it, you still get to eat. yes you still get to eat "bad" food - just less of it. Instead of the daily bag of potato chips, it's a monthly bag - and that's fine. The drug addict can never..._never_ ever take a hit every again or else it's right back to square one.

 

OP, my sympathies on dealing with this. I'm not sure that too many men would put up with this. You must really love this woman.

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Well, I have responded to one of your previous threads, so I won't repeat what I said there....

 

BUT

 

If your wife was an alcholic, or drug addict who refused to get help, or to try to do anything about it, your options would be the same;

 

1) TRY to persuade her compassionately to see what she is doing to herself, and by extension your marriage. But in the meantime, love the other parts of her, and recognize she will face this challenge when she is ready to commit to it.

 

2) Accept it and live with it- only YOU can decide if the other things she brings to the marriage support this.

 

3) Withdraw your love and companionship until she does what you ask. Give her an ultimatum - which in all likelihood would fail and be more damaging to your relationship.

 

4) Leave.

 

You cannot, CANNOT force other people to do what you want them to do. Even if it is better for, or even critical to their well being. We all have the right to self-determination. You can only control YOUR RESPONSE to their choices. Much like another post I was recently involved in, the options are essentially the same: Embrace, Accept, Ignore or Leave.

 

I don't know what else to tell you. If every single person on this board told you that you are right, she is being selfish and inconsiderate, it would not change the fundamental fact that it is up to HER to make a change.

 

You can coddle and excuse her

You can encourage/support her

You can threaten and nag her

 

If she isn't interested in doing anything about it, there's nothing you can do to make her. This would also be true of an alcoholic or drug addict. So you're back to those 4 choices.....

 

Embrace

Accept

Ignore

Leave

 

I don't mean to be cold. I wish there was a better answer, but in the end, this is the choice in most situations involving a conflict of priorities, values or beliefs within a relationship.

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My sympathies, for you both. I don't understand why people keep posting useless things for you like "accept it". I can see you are very upset, and I feel you have every right to be.

 

Some posts here about why food addiction is treated differently are very accurate, including how its so widely accepted, especially in North America.

 

Personally, I can see food addiction as WORSE than the other addictions. With drugs, you know you have to quit... completely. You cannot have another hit - EVER. If you do, you are very likely to have a relapse. With food, on the other hand, we all NEED to keep eating. Could you imagine a person addicted to cocaine needing to keep taking a *small* hit once in a while.. but never allowed to increase the amount of frequency (or stop completely)? It'd never happen.

 

I think you are posting here out of frustration. You probably want people to validate your feelings too. I hereby validate them. Perhaps you want to know if drastic measures are justified. They are. (my opinion, of course)

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My sympathies, for you both. I don't understand why people keep posting useless things for you like "accept it".

 

I was not trying to tell him what he should do. I was only trying to tell him what I believe his options to be.

 

Venting is fine and validating. And yes, we all need to have our feelings validated.. but what then?

 

IMO, when faced with frustrating situations like this, we eventually need to recognize the futility of getting others to agree with our POV- it won't change anything and the frustration will persist and grow. In fact- sometimes having others tell us that we are right and our partner is "wrong" will only make the situation worse- in "validating" our feelings, they can inadvertently encourage us to resent our spouse MORE for not seeing things the way "other people" see it.

 

We only know his view of the situation. And yes, the facts themselves are pretty clear. But you don't know what she would have to add to the dialoge and it's equally unfair to paint her as a lazy, selfish uncaring person when none of us have even met her or know her side of the situation.

 

All we can do is decide what we will do when faced with our options as they really are- not what they should be, not what's "fair" or "right" but what "is". This is all that I at least, was trying to convey.

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The thing is, nagging, being angry, persuasion, and anything else you can come up with don't work in ANY addiction situation. The addict needs to hit their absolute rock bottom and want to help themselves. No one can make them do it. It has to be all them or they just won't be successful in kicking the habit.

 

So really, in this situation, you pretty much are powerless.

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I've decided to treat this just like an intervention to a drug addict or alcoholic.

 

I am at the end of my rope. She fell down yesterday and very luckily didn't hurt herself, but it was a dangerous situation. My fear is that she is going to get a disease or injury that prevents her from ever being healthy again. I've seen it happen to other people. It is not going to happen to us.

 

1) I getting a scale and putting it in the kitchen.

2) I'm going to tell her that this is a family crisis. Her health is affecting the entire family.

3) I will do whatever I can to support her weight loss, but I can't force her to lose weight. She is responsible for correcting this problem. She can join WW, get counseling, start a 12-step program, whatever. I will fully support whatever she needs. I'll buy groceries, cook, exercise with her, whatever it takes.

4) She has one year to get her weight under 200lb. 200lb is 60 pounds more than when we got married, and is a full 15 pounds over the obesity line for her height and age. I don't feel like this is an unreasonable number.

5) If she doesn't lose the weight within a year, I will assess the situation. If she is making an honest effort, fine. If she is resisting, I'm out of the marriage.

 

 

I wish it didn't have to come to this, but this is as serious as alcoholism or drug addiction or gambling ruining a family. It has to stop.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Overeaters Anonymous is an organization that *does* treat obesity just as seriously as any other addiction...however, the participants need to be interested, motivated, etc. otherwise it fails, like it would with any other addiction. I can picture what 5'9" and 240 lbs looks like and while it may not be "hot" and you may have lost your attraction after dating her/marrying her at 140 or 150, I can't imagine that her weight is causing the whole family such a problem as to affect travel/plane trips, etc. Obviously you want your wife back, the way you married her and I think people are only suggesting that people change with time, age, children, etc. ....not suggesting that you should just tolerate it, but that coming from a place of anger may not be your best bet to help her come to the right conclusions for her health. If you weigh her and talk about a weight that you've determined she should be, she may feel humiliated (I certainly would). I'm not saying you haven't tried, as I certainly don't know even half of the story and I'm not suggesting that you haven't exhausted every option you could think of. Just offering you the perspective of a woman. The weight charts are a guide and most americans are overweight or obese by their standard. If my husband was quoting them to me as evidence that I need to lose weight and then weighing me in the kitchen, I'd be absolutely devastated.

I really do understand that you're frustrated and hurt and probably wondering why it isn't worth the effort for her anymore. I'm sure she looked very different and much healthier when you met her/married her. There's obviously something going on for her that runs deeper than calorie counting, though. I hope she's able to help herself for her own sake. Don't let anyone tell you what you "should" or "shouldn't" do, but rather consider what other people are saying and then make your own decision with the confidence that you're making the right choice for yourself. If she's not willing to consider her health issues serious (and they are deemed so by a doctor), then you may not be able to be the catalyst for change that she needs. Don't put so much pressure on yourself (to cook, exercise with her, etc.) She has to do it for herself. If you start cooking, monitoring her weight, etc. etc. and don't see the results you want, it will only build up the frustration and resentment that is already eating away at your marriage/respect for her.

Best wishes.

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  • 1 month later...
Just curious WhatThe- How's this approach working out for you and your wife?

I'm curious as well.

 

WhatThe, after reading your posts in the thread I started, I went back and read all your threads about your wife.

 

Suffice it to say that not only did you get your message about marriage through to me, but you've scared the hell out of me. Coming from a very traditional family, I had never considered not marrying, but after reading about your situation and others, it is now an option. That or an ironclad pre-nup that would obviate the draconian alimony terms of states like CO.

 

I know you have tried many, many things to get her to want to change. What about an extended family intervention, similar to what is used for other addictions - immediate family, her parents, her close relatives, close friends (basically everyone she cares about) - where you all talk about your concerns for her health and emotional well being (she obviously is not happy).

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Yet in the responses to my post on the relationship forum, most of the advice was to try to not hurt her feelings too much, and to accept the way she is.

 

Wrong. The overwhelming majority of the responses in that thread were advising you to get a divorce!

 

I don't think you should try to spare her feelings. If I were her, I would want you to tell me I'd better get up and go for a walk or you'd kick my a$$. Seriously. But then, my husband can tell me those things with a sense of humor and love. You've lost any morself of tenderness, compassion, or humor. So I'm not sure there's anything left for you to do but leave.

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Wrong. The overwhelming majority of the responses in that thread were advising you to get a divorce!

 

I don't think you should try to spare her feelings. If I were her, I would want you to tell me I'd better get up and go for a walk or you'd kick my a$$. Seriously. But then, my husband can tell me those things with a sense of humor and love. You've lost any morself of tenderness, compassion, or humor. So I'm not sure there's anything left for you to do but leave.

 

Agree totally - by far the majority of the advice was on how to get a divorce rather than stay in such a toxic relationship.

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Yes, and it has happened over 15 years. Emotional exhaustion.

 

I completely understand that. This isn't about blame. I get why he's angry and I would be as well.

 

The point is that, once you reach that point, it's not possible to help someone. The best thing he can do for both his wife and himself is get out.

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I completely understand that. This isn't about blame. I get why he's angry and I would be as well.

 

The point is that, once you reach that point, it's not possible to help someone. The best thing he can do for both his wife and himself is get out.

It certainly sounds like he would have done that but for the draconian alimony terms. Anyway, it seems he has given her an ultimatum, which of course has no teeth unless she thinks he is willing to walk away, so I guess we'll see what happens.

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