By guest blogger Lily
The breakdown of a serious relationship can be one of the most stressful life experiences there is; 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, although upsetting, can be a mutual decision made by both parties that is ultimately beneficial for both of 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 like an obvious time to start considering the contents of your kitchen cupboards, but research shows that whilst food hasn’t been scientifically proven as a direct cure for depression, a healthy diet can certainly ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety following a break up.
Read on for some dietary tips that will 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 creating a calming effect on 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 are far smaller in Mediterranean countries and a lot of this is 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 individual 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 be almost as therapeutic as going there for real!
Keeping hydrated is usually seen as a means 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 perspiration 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 in order 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 in memory. As the brain is the essential organ for regulating moods, it is important to treat it well in order 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.
Muscles 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 into your diet.
Eating regular meals is essential in regulating blood sugar levels. Skipping meals, particularly breakfast, can lead to low blood sugar which will leave you feeling tired, irritable and with a distinct lack of motivation. Sometimes, sadness and depression can make people lose their appetite altogether but sudden weight loss is bad for the body and will deprive the brain of glucose and other nutrients that are important in mood enhancing. In severe cases you may need to resort to taking supplements in order to build yourself back up. To avoid this try and eat regularly and be sure to 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 the time when you may feel like you need them most, avoiding things such as caffeine, alcohol and foods that are 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, but 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 make your melancholy mood even worse 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 actually benefit mental health by improving blood flow to the brain and giving you a boost in energy and concentration.
The key thing to remember after a break up is that maintaining your physical and emotional wellbeing and looking after yourself is essential. The beauty of the break up diet is that it includes foods that are all conveniently healthy and low in fat as well as being energy providers and mood enhancers. So next time you see your ex the chances are you’ll be looking great as well as feeling great – the ultimate revenge.
Lily is a health writer from England who specialises in relationship advice and sexual health issues for a number of journals and blogs.