Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Eating, Drinking, Overthinking

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Eating, Drinking, Overthinking

The Toxic Triangle of Food, Alcohol, and Depression - and How Women Can Break Free

Henry Holt,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

If this evil triumvirate of destructive habits is ruling your emotions, stage a coup and take charge of your well-being.

auto-generated audio
auto-generated audio

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


If you want to explore the Bermuda Triangle of issues where so many women’s feelings of self-worth vanish, getAbstract recommends this book by Yale psychology professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema. The title describes the “toxic triangle” of eating disorders, excess alcohol and paralyzing worry, the combination of which is even more debilitating than the individual components. Women are particularly vulnerable to the toxic triangle because they learn “self-focused coping” mechanisms as young girls. Their belief that self-improvement can cure all ills, and their search for answers within their own minds and bodies often prohibits them from using the external problem-solving techniques that men employ. The author says that the way out of the toxic triangle is for women to use their emotional sensitivities to their own advantage. Alas, so many experts have written so much material about each of the triangle’s issues, that this work doesn’t feel as fresh as it might have, but Nolen-Hoeksema does a good job of delving into each issue and providing coping strategies to help women escape this triad of destructive habits.


The “Toxic Triangle”

Like many women, Jill maintained stern control over her eating and drinking during the workweek. However, by Thursday night she was feeling plagued by frustration and a sense of inadequacy, and the cravings began to win. Over the weekend, she binged on sweet and fatty foods, and drank heavily at every opportunity. Monday morning she began the week feeling shame, guilt and failure, and once again resolved to control her eating and drinking.

Does Jill’s story sound familiar? If so, it is because this “toxic triangle” of binge eating, too much alcohol and self-flagellation has ensnared millions of women. At first you might overindulge just a little. That martini or those potato chips make you feel good temporarily. The more you reach for this kind of relief, however, the more destructive the cycle becomes. Yo-yo eating increases your risk of a variety of illnesses. Heavy drinking takes a toll on your body as well, and also threatens your career and your relationships within and outside your family. Depression and low self-esteem sap your ability to enjoy life, love and the people who matter most to you.

Women often respond to stress and difficulty...

About the Author

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema also wrote Women Who Think Too Much. A psychology professor at Yale University, she has researched mental-health issues in women for more than two decades.

Comment on this summary