Why Dieting Could Be Bad For Your Relationship

You've rolled out of bed a few minutes later than you should've and the entire morning is a rush to get out the door, so you skip breakfast to save some time — and to lose some of that extra weight you want gone. Bad idea... the commute to work could become less than pleasant, you may feel yourself getting irritated, and you're painfully aware of your tummy's rumbling noises — does this sound somewhat familiar?

The term hangry didn't originate recently. In fact, the earliest usage of the word dates back to 1956, reports BBC. However, hangry was only officially added to the Oxford dictionary in 2018, following its widespread use in more recent times. The expression's meaning is "'bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger" (via Good Morning America.)  

Dieting, a trend that is almost as old as the word hangry, has seen varied makeovers over the years, per AZ Dieticians. From diets that tell you to only eat salad every day to ones that are more complex, the options are endless. What does dieting have to do with your romantic relationship, does it have bad consequences?

Dieting could be making you more irritable

A 2022 study published in Appetite found that hunger brought on by a restrictive diet gave rise to negative emotions like stress, irritability, tiredness, and confusion. According to NBC News, this happens because the state of hunger affects our body's sense of equilibrium, otherwise known as homeostasis. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Kristen Lindquist explains that hunger "causes a lot of shifts in hormones, brain processes, and the peripheral nervous system that are comparable to what we see in anger, fear, and sadness," via BBC. 

Regulating our emotions and responding with kindness instead of anger are hallmarks of a good relationship. In fact, constantly reacting with irritability can have lasting effects on a relationship (via Better Help). Food is a fuel not only for our bodies but also for our brains. A 2014 study explored the relationship between self-control and glucose levels, and found that low glucose levels are one of the main reasons for aggressive behavior in partnerships, reports Science. Glucose is an essential component in filtering our emotions (via NBC News). Professor of psychology Roy F. Baumeister shared that the study is significant. "Being able to control ourselves and our impulses is one of the most important elements of the human psyche, so understanding self-control and what fuels it is really quite important," he offers (per Science.)

How to avoid hanger and have a healthy relationship

There are healthy ways to lose weight without dieting, but if you still want to take the dieting route, there are things to keep in mind. The goal with any diet should be to consistently meet your calorie requirements for the day, it's not about starving yourself, according to Trifecta. Although eating less is often the path toward weight loss, if you find yourself pining for food constantly, you might not be doing it right. 

The 2022 study published in Appetite also found a correlation between restrictive dieting and overeating. Following simple methods like eating more high-fiber, protein-rich foods that make you feel full for longer, and drinking plenty of water can have a positive impact. Mindfulness is another powerful tool to combat the bad side effects of dieting. Really focusing on your meals and taking longer to consume them can stave off hunger (via Trifecta).

Dieting can complicate a relationship, especially if it's only you who's following the diet. It can lead to more challenges than feeling hangry — like choosing where to dine out on a Saturday night, reports Shape. North Carolina State University Department of Communication Associate Professor Lynsey Romo shares that taking a unified approach can actually bring you and your partner closer together. "When both partners bought into the idea of healthy changes and were supportive of one another, weight loss appeared to bring people closer," she explains to Science Daily.