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Why Telling People Unhealthy Eating is Bad For Them is Terrible Advice

binge eating Aug 22, 2021
woman eating on bath tub

I was watching a TV-show yesterday in which one of the main characters had started to drink more, to the point where it was affecting their performance at work.

One of their colleagues confronted them and said: “You really have to get your drinking under control. It’s not good for you.”

It made me think of the millions of articles and social media posts that are screaming at us on a daily basis to stop eating too much or to stop eating unhealthy foods because it’s not good for us.

Here’s why that is some really unhelpful advice.

1 — They already know

9 times out of 10 the person who uses food as a coping mechanism knows that it’s not doing them any good.

Do you really think they don’t feel the sugar hangover the morning after a massive binge? Or that they don’t notice their bodies are feeling less energetic and more inflamed?

More than likely they’re already beating themselves up over it — hating themselves for not being able to control themselves around food, and worrying about how much weight they’ll put on as a result.

2 — It makes them feel ashamed

Telling someone that something’s not good for them only adds to the shame they’re already feeling.

Not only are they already being incredibly hard on themselves, now they know that you know — which makes them feel even more judged.

The irony is that shame is one of the most uncomfortable emotions anyone can ever feel, so if they’re already turning to food as a coping mechanism to escape uncomfortable feelings, you’ve now given them even more reason to do so. Plus, they’ll be less likely to open up to you about what’s truly going on.

3 — They may not know how to change

Many people who turn to food for emotional reasons learned to do so at a very young age, and it’s often the only way they know how to self-soothe.

Trying to get them to control their behaviour through willpower alone only ever sets them up for failure, because it creates a void they don’t know how to handle without food.

4 — Food is just a symptom

Ultimately, the reason why anyone turns to food (or any other addictive substance or behaviour) as a coping mechanism, has nothing to do with food at all. They’re doing it in an attempt to fulfil unmet physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs.

Unfortunately this is only ever a temporary solution, because we can’t ever truly get our needs met through food, which means that over time we keep needing more, and more, and more. To the point where those behaviours which were originally meant to help us are now starting to hurt us, yet we have no idea of how to stop.


Next time you see someone go down a self-destructive spiral, instead of telling them to “just stop doing it”, be curious and ask them what’s truly weighing on them.

Sometimes a compassionate and non-judgmental voice is all we need to feel less alone and find the courage to ask for help.

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