One of the sayings in recovery from alcoholism is not to become “too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT).” Well, loneliness can be a trigger for overeating, too. And lonely people are more likely to have metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity.
The average American has fewer close friends that they can confide in than years ago. Loneliness produces stress in people, and can have negative effects on health, say University of Chicago researchers:
Recently, researchers have characterized the negative influence of loneliness upon blood pressure, sleep quality, dementia, and other health measures. Those effects suggest that loneliness is a health risk factor, similar to obesity or smoking, which can be targeted to improve patients’ health in several dimensions.
“People are becoming more isolated, and this health problem is likely to grow,” said John Cacioppo, Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago. “If we know that loneliness is involved in health problems, the next question is what we can do to mitigate it.”…
Specifically, the four interventions that helped people break the cycle of negative thoughts about self-worth and how people perceive them were the most effective at reducing loneliness. Studies that used cognitive-behavioral therapy, a technique also used for treating depression, eating disorders and other problems, were found to be particularly effective, the authors reported.
“Effective interventions are not so much about providing others with whom people can interact, providing social support, or teaching social skills as they are about changing how people who feel lonely perceive, think about, and act toward other people,” Cacioppo said.
Of course, the more we overeat, the less we may wish to engage with others. This may be why one half of people who lose significant amounts of weight do so in the context of a supportive program.
So, it’s important to engage with others, ideally friends that we can be active with and/or who will support us in our efforts to improve health. Because, as we know, our friends can also stimulate us to overeat.