Sudden weight loss is such a common side effect of divorce that the phenomenon has been given its own moniker: the “Divorce Diet.” Although you may welcome shedding a few pounds, a precipitous drop in weight is not healthy – especially when it’s brought on by skipping meals or considering three spoonfuls of chocolate fro-yo “lunch.”
Those on the Divorce Diet generally report feeling so stressed out that they can’t eat. The taste of food makes them gag and the prospect of preparing a substantial meal feels overwhelming. This involuntary starvation increases divorce stress because it impairs your ability to concentrate and make good choices – now more important than ever as you begin your new life as a single person and/or parent. Here are some healthy ways to cope with stress so that you regain your appetite and navigate the challenges of divorce coming from a place of wellness.
Get medical and psychological care. Don’t attempt to white-knuckle your way through this difficult time. The stress of divorce can short-circuit even the fittest person, so do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. Insomnia often accompanies the Divorce Diet and the two combined can bring on clinical depression. Visit your primary physician or a psychiatrist to see if a trial of medication can help you regain your appetite and sleep through the night. Your divorce will feel more manageable if your body is functioning properly.
Eat frequent, small meals. When the mere thought of food makes you nauseated and frazzled, it’s understandable that you often skip meals. The solution? Eat frequent, small meals that are easy to make. Stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthy items such as cheese sticks, single-serving almond packs, hummus and baby carrots, yogurt, frozen fruit bars. Try to eat something every 2-3 hours, even if you aren’t hungry. These simple grab-and-go foods require virtually no preparation, are easy to digest, and provide the brain fuel you need to weather your divorce.
Use healthy coping skills. It’s imperative that you find constructive ways to manage the challenging feelings that divorce rains upon you: anger, sadness, grief, anxiety, and fear, to name just a few. The occasional weekend spent binge-watching Netflix is fine but routinely seeking solace in TV can isolate you and keep you from completing important tasks. The same goes for social media: spending hours gazing at the Instagram and Facebook feeds of the (apparently) Happily Marrieds is going to make you feel worse. Be mindful of how you spend your time, and the impact it has on your mood. Physical exercise is a great, natural way to boost endorphins. But be sure you’re eating enough to fuel your work-outs!
Therapy is a safe place to process feelings and get non-judgmental support. Find a therapist experienced with divorce clients. [Read: Find Out How to Work with a Therapist for more.] If money is an issue, try a free alternative: talk to a clergyperson or go to a 12-step group. Confiding in friends is fine, but be careful not to burn people out. Coping skills that are cheap and life-affirming include: journaling, making art, gardening, walking/hiking, mindfulness (yoga/meditation).
Don’t let the Divorce Diet sap your energy. Pounds shed during a time of upheaval will just reappear, and then some, once the crisis is past. Since most grocery stores stock nutritious, pre-packaged, single-serving foods, it’s easy to have a healthy supply of food on hand. Eating right won’t make your divorce go away, but it will give you the reserves you need to manage it.
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