I know I'm not your mother, but you HAVE to eat.
Even though my ex-husband and I knew divorcing was the best answer for resolving our issues, actually going through and getting over it was one of the most difficult experiences I have had. The transition was so painful I sometimes wondered if I would ever be happy again. Was I losing my mind?
My misery was so profound that I plunged into the depths of depression and anxiety. I had difficulty sleeping, making decisions, and eating. I had so much trouble eating that I took that urban legend, the divorce diet, to the extreme — I became anorexic.
When I look back at that time in my life, I feel tremendous compassion for the woman I was then.
She felt so lost, afraid, and out of control of her circumstances that I understand why she chose not to eat. It seemed like an appropriate choice.
There was the constant nausea.
There was the fear of gaining weight (and thereby becoming even more unlovable than she already felt).
There was the fear of spending money on food when there were so many other expenses breathing down her neck.
And then there was the sense of control that came with choosing not to eat.
From my vantage point today, I realize that choosing not to eat, or at times simply forgetting to eat, made getting through my divorce far more difficult than it needed to be.
Food has a direct impact on our ability to think. By starving my body, I was also starving my mind. Not eating exacerbated my difficulty making good decisions and added to the stress and anxiety I experienced every single day.
It's a vicious cycle that many people who divorce get trapped in. The depression, stress, and anxiety of divorce are typical appetite killers, and yet, the divorce diet only increases the negative impact of those emotional states.
The good news is that I eventually broke the cycle, and you can too, by following these 3 simple tips:
1. Ignore your instincts about eating.
You’ve probably lost your appetite somewhere along your journey through divorce. It’s time to start using some logic.
Choose to eat something at regular intervals throughout the day instead of relying on whether you’re feeling hungry. Consider setting daily alarms to remind yourself to eat.
2. Make eating easy for yourself.
Have simple foods like nuts, fruit, protein/nutrition bars, cans of soup, and frozen meals on hand so that finding something to eat is a non-issue.
Eating out is another option to keep mealtimes simple.
3. Use meals to build — and even rebuild — social connections.
The pain of divorce is terribly isolating and the loneliness is profound. Grabbing a bite is an easy excuse to get together with friends and family so you can connect with them.
The connections over meals can have a soothing effect well beyond that offered by the food you consume.
These steps work.
They’re the exact steps I followed to break out of my extreme version of the divorce diet. They’ll work for you, too.
It took me a while to get all three steps down, and I was far from perfect as I implemented them.
I started with ignoring my instincts about eating and just ate whenever the clock hit certain times. I ate whatever was easy (a bag of chips, a cookie, a protein bar, a banana) without much regard to nutritional value.
After I got used to eating again, I realized that although I felt better, I still felt like crap. I was eating too much junk food and not enough real food. That’s when I started making sure I had simple, healthier food available.
Planning my meals made a HUGE difference.
Eating helped my ability to deal with my divorce. My thoughts were clearer, and with improved clarity, I realized that building connections with my family and friends over mealtimes was a great way to get out of the house. I learned how to think about other things and not hyper-focus my problems. Learning how to refocus helped me move on with my life.
Divorce is a difficult life transition, but you can ease your way through.
Just remember to eat.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and divorce survivor herself. She works with clients who are looking for support and advice to get through their divorce. You can join her newsletter group for free advice or schedule a FREE 30-minute conversation with Karen directly in her Time Trade calendar.