Science finally explains why people struggle to eat after a breakup

Upset redhead teen girl sitting by window looking at phone waiting call from boyfriend, feeling sad and depressed teenager looking at smartphone wait for message. Social Media depression in teens breakup
Most Brits struggle to fill their plate after a breakup. (Getty Images)

When it comes to the breakdown and ultimately the breakup of a relationship, there appears to be two types of people: those who fill that emotional void with eating everything in sight, and those who can’t stomach anything at all.

New research has found that half of Brits (56%) fall into the latter camp, struggling to fill their plates after the ending of a relationship.

A quarter of the Brits surveyed by HelloFresh said they face a loss of appetite for between one to three months after a breakup.

This number rises to over three quarters (82%) of the 25 to 34 age group, who admit they struggle to eat food in the aftermath of heartbreak.

Don’t despair if this is you though as Georgina Sturmer, counsellor and member of BACP says that it’s normal for your routine to feel out of sync.

“Things that we used to do together with our partner might evoke a sense of sadness when we go solo,” she explains. “Cooking and eating are so central to all of our relationships, that in many ways it makes sense that they might be impacted by a breakup.

“We might avoid eating certain foods or meals that remind us of our partner. Cooking for one, or eating alone, can also act as a physical reminder of our solo status.”

Cooking can be a reminder of time spent with a former partner. (Getty Images)

On the other hand, as breakups can heighten feelings of insecurity and vulnerability, Sturmer says this often leads people to ’self-sabotage’ and choose to mindlessly eat unhealthy foods.

“[This happens] rather than spending our energy seeking the nutrition that our body craves,” she adds. “This can also happen if we have a personal association with certain foods as being ‘comforting’ or ‘guilty pleasures'.

“These are often based on childhood memories of foods that our parents cooked for us, or sweet treats that we were occasionally allowed. As if we are soothing ourselves by eating something that isn’t good for us. Even though the reality is that this is counterintuitive, and we are likely to feel better if we eat better.”

So, whether you’re eating too much or too little, how can you nourish yourself properly after a breakup?

Anushka Magan, HelloFresh recipe development manager, says her top tip is to keep your meals simple, yet nourishing.

“Opt for uncomplicated recipes that require minimal effort but provide maximum nutrition,” she says. “Think one-pan meals, stir-fries, or hearty salads with a variety of colourful vegetables.”

Having pre-prepared vegetables and fruit can make this easier too, so either whip up som meal prep on the weekends, or purchase some pre-prepared food from the supermarket.

“Having pre-cut veggies, marinated proteins, or cooked grains in the fridge makes it easier to whip up a nutritious meal without the hassle,” she says. “This also makes cooking for one easier because you can prep a larger portion and split into smaller meals.”

Happy young multiracial woman mixing bowl of fresh salad. Copy space.Healthy lifestyle concept.
It's best to pre-prepare vegetables to make cooking for one simple and easy. (Getty Images)

If you are desperate for some comfort eating, then Magan says you can compromise by cooking up some healthy, nourishing comfort meals.

"Comfort doesn't have to compromise health," she says. “Transform familiar comfort foods into healthier versions – think baked sweet potato fries instead of traditional fries or a whole-grain pizza with a load of veggies.”

However, she notes: "Food is a source of comfort, and allowing yourself the occasional treat can be a form of self-care.”

If you think you may have an eating disorder, you can visit Beat and browse their services for some help.

Relationships: Read more