Diet and divorce by Lila Bruk (dietician)

Lila Bruk Business Card jpegThere is no doubt that with all the stress and anxiety that surrounds divorce, eating well is the last thing on your mind. You may find that as you’re trying to juggle all the emotional and physical demands, “eating healthily” is the one ball that seems to keep slipping out of your grasp.

You may find that you’re regularly eating on the run, skipping your workouts and struggling to find time to plan or prepare meals. However, trying to ensure some level of healthy eating is particularly important over this time. Firstly, you need sufficient nutrients to help your body cope with these demands and this can only be achieved by having a balanced diet. However, more importantly, it is more essential now than ever to be kind to yourself and nurture yourself. In fact, you may even find that being conscious of your eating will help you to feel that there is one area of your life that is under control, when it seems everything else is falling apart, and may even make everything else seem more manageable.

For now your focus diet-wise should be on making good food choices and eating to keep you feeling healthy and strong, rather than trying to lose excessive weight. However, many women do find their weight changes during or shortly after divorce due to eating – or not eating – emotionally. Some women find that they lose their appetite completely when they are getting divorced, while others may use bingeing as a coping strategy and thus may find their weight climbs during this time.

If you have decided that you definitely want to lose weight over this time, be sure to do so for the right reasons. For example, some women may also be motivated by wanting to look amazing, so their ex knows that he’s “missing out”. Unfortunately, if you are losing weight for someone else you will probably find that that weight loss is difficult to sustain. Ideally any weight loss regimen should be for you, rather than anyone else.

Similarly, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are going through an extremely difficult time and thus “punishing” yourself with overly restrictive diets is pointless and counter-productive. It will only make you feel drawn and even more stressed. You are allowed an occasional treat, but be sure to eat correctly the majority of the time.

Here are some tips for you to better manage your diet over this time:

1.Take a B-vitamin supplement:

A Vitamin B complex supplement would be advisable to take during this time, as it helps your body to cope with stress, as well as giving you an energy boost. Choose a product that has 100%, or close to 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Megadoses of vitamins are not advisable, so try not to choose supplements that greatly exceed the RDA.

2. Plan your meals and shopping trips:

It can be useful to try as much as possible to plan your meals for the week. Then, once you’ve done that you can draw up your shopping list too. This may seem time-consuming and unnecessary, but you will definitely find that it makes life a lot easier when you’re at the supermarket. Also, as mentioned before, managing the small areas of your life will make the big ones feel more manageable too. If you can, try cooking in advance and freezing, to make life easier when you’ve had a hectic day and don’t have time to cook. Stews and soups are known to freeze well, but even stirfies and pasta are good options for freezing.

3. Fit in exercise:

Regular exercise is a natural mood booster and stress reliever. In addition, exercise helps give you an opportunity to clear your mind and help you feel more focused. It doesn’t have to be a major workout for there to be a benefit. Just taking the dog for a walk, or a jog around the block will make the world of difference.

4. Set a good example with your eating:

This is a difficult one, as no doubt that your main focus during this time is ensuring that your children are coping well. However, it is important that they see you eating healthily, making the right choices and not using food as a coping mechanism. They will learn from you how to cope with stressful situations and if they see you using food in this way, it will result in them being more likely to do the same. Similarly, research has found that children who sit down to mealtimes are more likely to have healthier eating habits for life. So, be sure to still try to sit down for meals with them, talk to them about their day and keep mealtimes as a positive occasion to connect with your kids.

5. Keep a journal:

You may find it beneficial over this time to keep a journal over this time of your thoughts, feelings and emotions, to help you make sense of it all. While you’re putting pen to paper, consider keeping a food journal as well. This is, once again, another way to help you feel in control of your eating habits and can help you to feel more focused.

6. Make meals enjoyable again:

Although you may not be in the mood for doing any major cooking, try to still keep your meals interesting by using different herbs and spices, different vegetables and different sauces to usual. You may discover new flavour combinations, while at the same time making you feel more satisfied with your meals so your cravings are reduced.

7. Drink water:

Staying well-hydrated helps in many ways, but especially in keeping your energy levels up. Try keeping a water bottle on your desk or in your bag, to encourage you to drink and help you clock 2 litres. If you’re struggling to remember, there are many apps and gadgets (e.g. water bottles with digital displays) that help you to keep track of your water intake. Remember that herbal teas and soups will also count towards your fluid intake, so are also an option if you’re not that into drinking water.

8. Keep it simple:

As tempting as it may be, this is not the time for drastic measures or starting any extreme diets. Now is the time to focus on making healthy choices, eating regular meals and avoiding sugary and fatty foods. Choose foods that make you feel good and that make you feel healthy. Focus on unprocessed foods, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, wholegrains, healthy fats and low fat dairy. You will feel better for it and no doubt will feel much healthier.

Lila Bruk
Lila Bruk & Associates – Registered Dieticians

Tel: 011 880 9156 | Mobile: 083 244 0163
Wanderers Wellness Centre, Wanderers Club, 21 North St, Illovo, 2196, Johannesburg, South Africa

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