The breakdown of a serious relationship can be one of the most stressful life experiences; according to Everyday Health, divorce is up there with the death of a family member, job loss, illness, and going to jail. Sometimes a break-up can be a mutual decision made by both parties that ultimately benefit their futures. But when a partner is unexpectedly ‘left’, it can leave them hurt, confused, and full of unanswered questions and anxieties. Why wasn’t I good enough? Is there someone else? Were they cheating? Does this mean I’ll need to consider STD testing? What happens now? How will I ever trust again? And so on.
There are a lot of helpful organisations that can offer advice and support of both a practical and emotional nature following the breakdown of a relationship or marriage. However, sometimes moving on is all about self-help and can be furthered with something as simple as your diet. It may not seem an obvious time to start considering the contents of your kitchen cupboards. Still, research shows that food hasn’t been scientifically proven as a direct cure for depression, and a healthy diet can certainly ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety following a breakup.
Read on for some dietary tips to help you come out of the other side of a break-up feeling fit, fresh, and fabulous.
Stock Up On Calming Carbohydrates
Serotonin is a chemical within the brain that is thought to ease sadness and anxiety by calming the body and mind. Whilst foods don’t directly contain this chemical, a diet rich in carbohydrates is thought to help increase the production of serotonin in the brain. Just try and keep your choice of carbs sensible – think brown rice, cereals, and vegetables instead of chips and white pasta dishes.
Adopt A ‘Mediterranean’ Diet
Studies have shown that the rate of depression and mental health problems is far lower in Mediterranean countries due to a healthy and nutritious diet. This isn’t down to one specific food source but the combination of many different foods (including fish, olive oil, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains), each with their own health benefits. This combination of omega 3, vitamin B, natural fatty acids, and antioxidants is apt to make you feel happier and healthier, so adopting a Mediterranean-style diet is almost as therapeutic as going there for real!
Keeping hydrated is usually seen as a matter of survival rather than a mood enhancer. But research shows that even mild dehydration can make you feel grumpy and miserable as it creates a chemical imbalance in the brain. With the body losing up to two and a half litres of fluid a day through sweat and urination, it is important to replace this loss – particularly if you are also exercising. Water is healthy, free, and available on tap (no pun intended) and should be fully utilised to the sum of at least two litres a day to maintain a healthy and happy mind.
Think Outside of the Fridge
Spice up your diet with a few non-obvious, happy foods. Blue potatoes are probably not something you will find in your local supermarket, but they are full of powerful antioxidants that contain neuro-protective qualities for the brain, such as reducing inflammation and assisting memory. As the brain is the essential organ for regulating moods, it is important to treat it well to stay happy.
Another “happy food’ is Swiss chard, an unusual green vegetable similar to spinach. It is very high in magnesium which is responsible for increasing energy in the body. A study carried out by the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry shows that high magnesium levels are proven to help keep depression at bay.
Mussels and honey are also high in nutrients that help keep the brain healthy, and although they are not necessarily everyday food items, they could still be quite easy to adapt to your diet.
Eating regular meals is essential in regulating blood sugar levels. Skipping meals, particularly breakfast, can lead to low blood sugar, leaving you tired, irritable, and with a distinct lack of motivation. Sometimes, sadness and depression can make people lose their appetite altogether. Still, sudden weight loss is bad for the body and will deprive the brain of glucose and other important nutrients in mood enhancement. In severe cases, you may need to resort to taking supplements to build yourself back up. To avoid this, try to eat regularly and snack on healthy foods such as fruits and cereals between meals if necessary to keep your energy levels up.
Things to Avoid
Although this is when you may feel like you need them most, avoiding things such as caffeine, alcohol, and foods high in fat and sugar is essential in stabilising the mood. These substances all include ingredients that will give you an initial energy boost by releasing the neurotransmitter beta-endorphin. Still, that happy feeling doesn’t last, and you are apt to crash and burn when the effects wear off. If used in excess, they can also cause sleep problems, anxiety, and high blood pressure – all of which will only worsen your melancholy mood in the long run. However, it’s not all bad news – studies have shown that a small amount of dark chocolate (i.e. chocolate with high solid cocoa content) can benefit mental health by improving blood flow to the brain and boosting energy and concentration.
After a breakup, the key thing to remember is that maintaining your physical and emotional well-being and looking after yourself is essential. The beauty of the break-up diet is that it conveniently includes healthy and low-fat foods, energy providers, and mood enhancers. So next time you see your ex, the chances are you’ll be looking great and feeling great – the ultimate revenge.