While social isolation can contribute to obesity, being in close quarters with lots of conflict can be as bad, or worse. Recent research substantiates what is probably common sense. In this study, the researchers asked a large group of people in London to take the the Close Persons Questionnaire:
- “How much in the last 12 months did this person give you worries, problems, and stress?”
- “How much in the last 12 months would you have liked to have confided more in this person?”
- “How much in the last 12 months did talking to this person make things worse?”
- “How much in the last 12 months would you have liked more practical help with major things from this person?”
The study authors note that relationship conflict can produce stress, and that overeating may reduce stress.
Stress associated with poor-quality relationships may contribute to weight gain via various mechanisms. Negative aspects of close relationships may induce negative feelings,4 which can increase physiological arousal… Eating high-fat and high-carbohydrate caloric content “comfort food” may reduce biological stress system activity… Some evidence also suggests an association between chronic life stress and a greater preference for energy- and nutrient-dense foods, namely those that are high in fat and sugar. In addition, there may be further effects via other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as physical inactivity.
These are obviously very, very difficult situations. But sometimes, we can turn lemons into lemonade. One friend of mine starting taking salsa lessons to get out of the house; he ended up losing 40 lbs. and his knee pain went away!