What If My Spouse's Eating Habits Are Triggering to Me?


Whether you are in eating disorder recovery or practicing intuitive eating, you may notice how you have become more aware of the dieting culture around you. This may include eating habits of loved ones in your life, who may not be practicing your newfound way of eating and living. How you can you sustain the changes you have made for yourself if your spouse, partner, or loved ones are still engaged in a dieting mentality or have abnormal eating behaviors themselves?

This is often a point of struggle for many women who may have proactively made the choice to heal from a chaotic past of dieting and move toward a more peaceful relationship with food and body. Making this decision means learning how to work through situations that can be potentially triggering, including how to navigate diet culture when you’re encountering it on a daily basis.

Because the truth is, even though you may have made the decision and choice to say goodbye to dieting or to be committed to your eating disorder recovery, there will be people in your life who won’t understand why or what you are doing.

The behaviors of those closest to you can become triggering, particularly if your loved one is entrenched in the dieting culture that you are working so hard to break free from.

Some behaviors that you might encounter with the loved ones in your own home might include:

  • Restrictive eating behaviors
  • Yo-Yo Dieting, or frequently going from one diet to another
  • Recurring binge eating episodes
  • Hoarding/Hiding Food
  • Body shaming talk
  • Talking negatively about certain foods, (i.e. “good” versus “bad” foods)
  • Food shaming (getting shamed for your food choices)

It can be difficult to focus on maintaining your own recovery and healing journey when you encounter these types of scenarios from your loved ones.  Here are some practical ways to help you through these potentially triggering situations that you might encounter in your own home:

Remember Your Why

It can be challenging to push through triggering situations, especially if you feel alone on your journey. Always go back to the reason why you decided to make a change in the first place. What motivates you to keep going, especially when times get hard? A trigger can feel like a setback in some ways, but stand resolute in your commitment to yourself. Ultimately, your motivation factors are stronger than a trigger. 

Set Healthy Boundaries

Even if you feel like your partner doesn't understand what you are experiencing as a result of their behaviors, it is still important to communicate your thoughts, feelings and needs. Establishing heathy boundaries with your spouse is essential to not only your relationship but to your journey toward finding peace with food and your body. Setting healthy boundaries in your relationship can include:

  • clear communication about your needs
  • being specific and direct
  • advocating for yourself
  • speaking up when you think you've been disrespected

Working on establishing appropriate boundaries with your loved ones can help you protect your recovery efforts. 

Have Honest Discussions

While you cannot change your spouse, you can encourage open and honest discussions. If your spouse is engaging in behaviors that are triggering to you, use it as an opportunity to invite them into a meaningful discussion (if you feel ready to do so). Let them know why their behavior is upsetting and how they might be able to better support you.

You may also share about the changes you are experiencing in your life as a result of giving up dieting, normalizing your eating habits, etc. and involve your spouse in the process. 

Stay Connected to Support

Even if you have not been able to find support in your own family or partner, it is important to stay connected to like-minded individuals who are encouraging your efforts and helping you stay focused. Whether this means meeting regularly with a professional, having an accountability group, or friends that understand, make sure to build a support system that can help you when you feel like you're struggling.

A trigger can feel overwhelming in the moment, but remember to fall back on your positive coping skills to help you work through a challenging situation. Rather than defaulting to chaotic eating habits, allow yourself to work through the discomfort, and you will always come out stronger.

Triggers can be clues about areas in your life that may need some extra TLC, so be sure to take a mindful inventory of where you're at and what you need. Stay committed to your journey toward food and body freedom; you don't deserve anything less.