Stressful Relationships

Stressful relationships are triggers for many bad habits. When stressed we often run for cigarettes, food or alcohol. A new study supports this. The issue I have with the article about the new study is that it violates one of the key principles focused on this website. The article is from Men’s Health and published on Fox News titled “The people who make you fat.” In summary, the study found that people who have negative relationships put on increased belly fat compared to those with non-stressful relationships. What’s my beef with the article? If they are trying to say that the people who give me stress are shoving food or booze down my throat, then OK. However, that is not what they are saying.

Stressful Relationships

Stressful Relationships and Personal Responsibility

There is no doubt many people in stressful relationships put on weight, smoke or choose to drink alcohol. The study made a good observation. That’s not my point. One of the fundamental truths emphasized on this site is that of personal responsibility. I am in charge of my life and responsible for my actions. If I am overweight it is because I eat too much and don’t get enough physical exercise. Stress is a trigger that tests my self discipline. If I am put under stress and I don’t have the self discipline to eat healthy foods, but rather reach for chips or chocolate, the stress, or the people who give me stress, did not put the weight on me. I did. The stress reveals who I am and what I am made of.

I was listening to a Wayne Dyer CD in the car recently and he mentioned a great analogy that explains this well. Consider the wonderful orange. If you were to squeeze an orange, what would come out of it? If you said orange juice, you would be correct. If you took 1 million oranges and squeezed all 1 million, you would never, ever get apple juice or cranberry juice to come out of a single orange. Orange juice comes out because that is what is inside the orange. When stress squeezes you, what comes out? When stressed, do you get a little mean, short-tempered or fussy? Or are you calm, cool and collected? What you are made of will come out when tested with stress.

[Tweet “When stress squeezes you, what comes out?”]

The good news is if you don’t like what comes out, you can change it.

The Circular Pattern of Bad Personal Habits and Stress

If I am not disciplined enough to make wise choices, I will incur bad results. It is my fault. When in stressful relationships, other people are involved and the situation becomes much more complicated. Let’s say that I tend to eat junk food when stressed. The lead researcher of the study,¬†Kiarri Kershaw, of Northwestern University, indicates that stress tends to cause people to reach for junk food. OK. However the stress is not making me reach for the bad food. It is my bad habit of how I deal with stress. That is my choice. The problem is that such bad choices can lead me down a vicious spiral. When you eat bad food when stressed, you can gain excess weight as the study indicated. The excess weight now can affect you psychologically. With added weight you may not have as much self-esteem. You might get depressed. Depression can be another trigger where your response is to eat more junk food.

It is our habits that are critically important. The title of the article from Men’s Health is totally inaccurate. No one else is making us fat. We make ourselves fat when we allow bad habits into our lives.

Put It Into Action

The purpose of this post is not to teach one or more methods on how to change habits. That is in other posts. Rather, it is make us aware that we are in charge of our lives and we have the choice to exercise good or bad habits. When stressed, we can change how we deal with stress, or if we tend to eat when stressed, our eating habits. Your action assignment is to evaluate how you tend to deal with stress.

  • How do you act when stressed by another person?
  • How do you feel when stressed?
  • What are you thinking when stressed?

Knowing the answer to these questions will help you understand yourself a little better and deal with your stressful relationship habits. 

About the author

Mark Jala is a certified marriage coach, researcher, and consumer advocate. Certified in Strategic Interventions, Mark bases all of his services and advice on verifiable research. With nearly 40 years of problem solving experience, Mark has developed a holistic approach to marriage coaching which provides a context and execution plan not seen in ordinary marriage services.

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