Divorce Diet and Nutrition: Healthy Weight Loss and Mindful Eating

Few things can shut down your appetite as quickly as divorce can. The grief of divorce is real. Right now, you may be blowing through your days fueled by everything but food. There’s nothing like a little anger, blame, fear, regret, and even self-loathing to get you through a day in the divorce world. 

What is the "divorce diet"?

Some people call the weight loss many people going through divorce experience the "divorce diet" – which glamourizes unhealthy weight loss. While it might be seen as a "perk" at first, let's examine the divorce diet and how to get back into healthy, nurturing eating.

Weight changes during divorce

Studies show a strong correlation between weight and marriage. When people get married, they tend to gain weight. When people divorce, they tend to lose weight. The connection may be because people eat together once they’re married and reinforce bad habits. It may be that before and after marriage, we are biologically tuned to finding a new mate by being “attractive.” Or, it may be that marriage denotes contentment and happiness – and divorce is a highly stressful time.

Next to the death of a loved one, divorce is the second-most stressful life event a human being can endure. During a divorce, you’re dealing with a whirlwind of emotions. You may be feeling lonely, angry, depressed, and unloved. You probably can’t sleep. You may be worried about money. You might feel unable to eat. At all. 

Appetite loss is common during divorce. This kind of starvation weight loss can have a significant downside if you’re not careful. At a time when you need your emotional and physical strength the most, if you’re not eating, you’re not getting the nutrition you need to take care of yourself and stay mentally and physically healthy.

Can the divorce diet be healthy?

The “divorce diet” is as real as your soon-to-be ex, but there’s nothing about it that’s nutritional or sustainable. The divorce diet has nothing to do with willpower or nutrition and everything to do with the eating habits of stress. You already know that divorce is one of the most stressful life events a person can go through. And studies show that people navigating divorce sleep less, cry more, and eat less. A lot less. So while the celebs look picture-perfect in their carefully curated photo ops, you can bet they’re also doing their fair share of crying and not eating.

Stress eating patterns

There’s a direct connection between appetite and stress, and divorce can keep you in a chronic state of stress. During stressful periods, the brain floods the body with adrenaline as part of its fight-or-flight response. The more stress, the more adrenaline, keeping you in a perpetual state of overdrive. The chronic stress of divorce can completely shut down your appetite. And when you can’t eat, your body goes under even more stress … just when you need your health the most.

Consider what happens to your body when your eating habits go south and you’re not getting the nutrients you need:

  • When you don’t get enough glycogen, your liver and muscles are deprived of critical hydration. 
  • Your blood sugar plummets and yoyos, potentially causing insulin resistance and the possibility of Type 2 diabetes. 
  • Inadequate nutrition can result in muscle atrophy and muscle loss.
  • When you’re not taking in enough food, your body’s metabolism declines in order to conserve energy.
  • Nutritional deficiencies can lead to malnutrition and deficiency diseases.
  • Lack of nutrition and added stress increase the hormone corticosterone and make the brain more susceptible to stress and depression. Bottom line: Starving your body is also starving your brain.

While you might be happy to see a lower number on the scale, what you won’t be able to see are these other potentially dangerous physiological changes … until you begin to experience other uncomfortable symptoms. 

Tips for healthy eating and living after divorce

There's nothing easy about divorce, and everything you’re feeling is normal. That said, you need to take care of yourself so you can enjoy the new and improved life that’s waiting for you just around the corner. 

Here are some ideas for that self-care.

Plan meals in advance

Meal planning after divorce may be way down on your list of priorities right now, but eating right needs to be on your list so you can enjoy your future in good health. Plan meals in advance if you have the time, and even do a bit of pre-prep. Consider subscribing to a meal plan where the food comes directly to your door. All you do is minimal preparation, and you have an instant meal!. 

Then again, preparing meals might sound downright overwhelming right now. Until you can stomach all that meal preparation stuff, keep small healthy snacks and prepared meals on hand so you can grab something without the need for cooking or preparation. And while these snacks should be convenient, make sure you’re not loading up on added sugar and fat, which can have the opposite effect on your long-term well-being.

Strategically incorporate superfoods

Lately, we’ve been paying more attention to the role food plays in our health and longevity. While some specific diets stand out (and others come and go), the ones that support long-term health and welfare commonly contain specific foods that carry more nutritional value than others. 

Superfoods don’t wear a cape, but in the food world, they’re the heroes of a healthy diet. 

  • Berries are high in antioxidants and fiber.
  • Fish is a good protein source, and many cold-water fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids.  
  • Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are high in fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, and phytochemicals. 
  • Nuts are a convenient source of protein and contain important monounsaturated fats that can potentially reduce the risk of heart disease. 
  • Legumes include peas and many different types of beans. They’re a great source of plant protein, folate, and fiber.
  • Olive oil is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat as well as polyphenols and vitamin E.
  • Whole grains contain several B vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They are also an excellent source of fiber. 
  • Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and some greens like kale, mustard greens, and collard greens. They’re great sources of vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals. 
  • Tomatoes are full of vitamin C and lycopene.
  • Yogurt is a great source of calcium, protein, and probiotics. 

Quench your thirst

Water is one of the unsung heroes of health. Staying hydrated is essential for every system of the body, including brain function, digestion, detoxification, and heart health. In fact, studies suggest that dehydration can raise cortisol levels and increase anxiety symptoms. 

The right amount of water varies from person to person and differs depending on the weather, physical activity, and other variables. But for the most part, if you divide your weight by three, that’s the number of ounces you should try to consume in water during each 24-hour period.

Get plenty of protein

Protein is one of those essential nutrients that our bodies need to grow and repair cells. Proteins are composed of about 20 different amino acids that link together to create muscle, bone, enzymes, hormones, and other proteins. Protein is also an essential energy source.

While most people think of animal products like meat, fish, and dairy as the primary protein sources, there are plenty of plant proteins available including soy products, beans, lentils, nuts, quinoa, pea protein, and whole grains. And science continues to offer new lab-created plant proteins that look, smell, and taste just like meat.

Avoiding an unhealthy divorce diet

The divorce diet isn’t just about food; it’s about improper stress management. Self-care and learning healthy ways to cope with your feelings are key to getting through this time while maintaining your physical, emotional, and mental health.

How can you deal with this time more mindfully and healthfully?

    • Put away social media. Everybody looks happy and on top of the world on social media. Of course, you already know it’s all manipulated, but it’s still hard to watch all those (fake) perfect, happy people when you aren’t feeling so perfect and happy yourself.
    • Spend time with friends and family who will support you during this time. 
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Avoid excessive drugs or alcohol that will make you feel even more unhappy.
  • Get plenty of exercise. Walk. Dance. Find a good yoga or boxing class. Exercise releases powerful endorphins and is one of the most powerful stress-busters we know. 
  • Learn to meditate, and watch your stressors move into and out of your awareness. 
  • Invest time in hobbies that make you happy. Making art, music, gardening, hiking, swimming, and taking a class are ways you can retrain your mind to focus on things you love instead of your divorce. 
  • Find a support group of people who understand what you’re going through. 
  • Don’t ignore the power of outside help and maybe even some short-term prescription medication. Getting the assistance of a skilled therapist or life coach can help you gain perspective on your current situation that you're just not able to do for yourself right now. 
  • Eat! If you aren’t interested in eating full meals, keep healthy grab-and-go snacks available. Think of small packages of nuts, fruit, cut-up vegetables, hummus, frozen meals, cans of soup, and protein bars. These require little preparation but can provide essential brain and body fuel. 

What if you still have no interest in eating? Have faith that healthy coping mechanisms and managing your stress will have a positive impact soon. Be patient. The divorce process will end, and this too shall pass. 

Resisting the appeal of the “revenge body”

Divorce is messy and painful, and weight loss is a common by-product of that pain and mess. But for some reason, people may focus on your weight loss as a positive instead of an unhealthy side effect of the heart-wrenching ordeal you've been through. Some may even suggest it’s a form of sweet revenge on your no-good ex. 

What you really need right now is support and comfort and a good friend. And right now, the only revenge you should focus on is promoting your own physical and mental health for your exciting new life. 

At Hello Divorce, it’s our mission to support people through all the phases of their divorce and beyond. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or look through our extensive library of resources to get ideas and ways to enhance your new post-divorce life. 

Suggested reading:
Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.