Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.Bethenny Frankel
The stress of a divorce can have a big impact on your health. Initially, you may experience a loss of appetite. But over time, stress can cause your adrenal glands to release the hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite, and thus the potential for substantial weight gain. It’s not just your weight that’s at risk. Research shows that divorce can also increase your risk of heart disease by 20 percent.
It’s easy to make mindless decisions to eat junk food to fill the emotional void, to comfort yourself with manufactured foods, but that only increases your risk of depression and anxiety, destabilizing your brain and hindering your healing. Eating healthy foods can help you steady your mind, think more clearly, and reduce the effects of stress—making a big difference in your overall recovery time.
“Owning my health was important to me during my divorce. I was usually in such a rush in the mornings and afternoons that I would eat out regularly or have some highly processed frozen burrito with low quality ingredients. I found that I could save a lot of time and money by prepping salads for lunch for the week and make simple smoothies in the morning. I bought 5 glass containers and a quality blender. I felt amazing, healthy, in control and I felt like I had some leeway to eat more freely at the rest of the day.”
Giving your body healthy fuel will help you feel better mentally and physically. So what should you eat? Eating good-for-you-foods doesn’t have to mean dieting, but it may mean revisiting Nutrition 101 and exploring some new sections of the grocery store. Maintain a balanced diet by eating a combination of proteins, carbs, and fat.
Fiber. Eating foods that are high in fiber will help you feel full longer. Research indicates that carbohydrates cause the brain to produce serotonin, a relaxing hormone. To avoid a late-night binge, try healthy comfort foods that will fill you up, such as minestrone soup or sautéed vegetables with rice. Look for whole grains instead of refined grains.
Fruits and Vegetables. Chronic stress can weaken your immune system. Boost your ability to fight disease by eating a plant-heavy diet with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene, and citrus fruits provide your vitamin C. Try to eat at least 3-5 servings of vegetables a day, and be aware of starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas) versus non-starchy vegetables (green beans, cucumbers, onions).
Healthy Fats. Fat is not always a bad word. You’ll want to avoid foods with saturated fats and trans fats, but foods with mono- or polyunsaturated fats are important for brain health, benefit your heart, and improve blood glucose levels. They may play a role in combating depression. Foods high in healthy fat include olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, yogurt, and fish.
Hydrate. Don’t forget about that all-important component: water. Hydration has been shown to have a major effect on energy levels and brain function and can even help with weight loss by increasing satiety and boosting your metabolic rate. Try adding apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon to your water for extra benefit.
What you don’t eat is just as important as what you do eat. Try to limit or avoid the following in your diet.
Sugar. The production of stress hormones is significantly influenced by blood sugar levels. As a simple carbohydrate, it enters and leaves the bloodstream quickly, causing you to have a “sugar crash.” Avoid highly refined foods made with added sugars, such as white breads, cereals, and pastas. Hidden sugars can be found in many processed foods. Note also that excess alcohol can cause imbalanced levels of sugar in the blood.
Sodium. High salt intake increases blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease. It can be difficult to control your sodium intake, because many processed foods contain added salt. In fact, more than 70 percent of the sodium we eat comes from packaged foods. Look at nutrition labels and opt for fresh, not preserved, ingredients when you can. Want to know why restaurant food is so delicious? You guessed it: salt (and often fat). You can still go out to eat, but we recommend keeping everything in moderation and you’ll be fine.
Caffeine. You may be tempted to turn to coffee, tea, or soda to deal with stress-induced lack of sleep, but caffeine stays in your system longer than you might realize. You don’t have to eliminate it entirely, but cutting back can help with both insomnia and “the jitters.”
Food has a direct connection to your mood. Set yourself up for success by making healthy food choices.
Try a new, healthy recipe this week, and choose one unhealthy food to cut from your diet.