When Your Date Eats Horribly (and Why You Should Care)

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It’s fair to say that a person doesn’t need to be an all-out fitness nut or organic eater to have a good romantic relationship. At the same time, it means something — something negative — if a man or woman has consistently horrible eating habits. When you start dating someone, there is value in thinking about the way that person eats. My colleague, Dr. Ramani Durvasula, wrote a book called You Are Why You Eat, and the point of the book was to highlight how what we eat – and the way we treat our body – is a reflection of something much larger. Keep reading and you’ll see why this is a topic that you should care about.

Eating unhealthy and fatty foods consistently will lead to weight gain, either now or later.
If you’re in your 20s, you may be able to eat unhealthily and still manage to maintain a decent body. Perhaps you’d have a little weight in your stomach or you’d see that your face, legs or back side are a little fuller than you’d like. But bad eating habits in one’s 30s or 40s, or even later, will inevitably lead to obesity.

Why obesity is bad – and the reasons may not be what you imagine.
Self-disclosure: I always stick up for overweight people. They get bullied as kids and get sneered at as adults, and I believe that is not fair – and not the least bit kind or empathetic. People who eat horribly or overeat do so because they self-medicate with food. They use food to comfort themselves in a given moment, and they don’t think about the long-term consequences of what that kind of eating will do to their body. There is value in checking your judgments about obesity and not talking about overweight people in a cruel way, but there is also value in looking for a romantic partner who treats their body well and makes good food choices.

A person’s mood and energy level depends largely on the things they eat.
If you eat healthily, you will have more energy than someone who does not. Eating well also improves your mood because healthy choices don’t drain your energy and give you that after-lunch coma that comes from eating too many fried or carb-happy foods. In addition, eating healthily makes you feel more in control and positive about yourself because you have proof with every food choice that you are able to delay gratification, and use good judgment. In other words, the person who eats well consistently is able to be disciplined and positive; the person who chooses buffalo wings and fries on a regular basis shows through their behavior that a) they really don’t care that much about their body or b) they engage in (distorted) wishful thinking, telling themselves they’ll be fine, no matter what they eat.

A person with a healthy body has a healthier mind than someone who is physically unhealthy. Ask a waiting room full of elderly men and women at the doctor’s office whether they have any regrets about the way they spent decades of their lives eating. A relative of mine, for example, guzzled soda and swallowed candy for years like it was his last day on earth; at 65, he was diagnosed with diabetes and now must take daily medication and avoid entirely the very foods and drinks he likes the most. In short, he overdid it, so now he can’t do it all. The person who eats unhealthily and shows little or no care for their body will be far more likely to get sick or develop a long-term illness than someone who fuels their body consistently with healthy foods.

The ultimate lesson: Picture the person you’re dating years from now.
You may be on a date with someone who eats the least healthy meal imaginable, and you could tell yourself that it’s just one meal. That reflection is valid if you share a few more meals with that person and see that they mix the occasional healthy option in with the unhealthy one. But if you see a distinct pattern that the person you’re dating doesn’t give a single thought to what they eat – and that they eat whatever they want when they want it – you should seriously think about what this behavior reflects about their overall psychological state; what this behavior will model to your children should you want to become more serious and have kids in the future; and what kinds of illnesses this unhealthy behavior could lead to down the line. The ultimate goal? Moderation – in all parts of your life, and the life of your new partner. Though it may sound silly or even ridiculous at first, the way your future partner eats truly does matter.

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About the Author:

Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.


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