By Perri O. Blumberg
Take the focus off your failed relationship and put your time and energy into pressing the reset button on your health and happiness.
First there was The Total Idiot, aka the dude who cheated on you after flying a girl out from North Carolina to Wisconsin to see a DMB concert—and was too stupid to untag himself in her Insta pic. He was followed by Hot Pig: This Fall fling had sculpted a six-pack you could grate cheese on, but he was also the guy who said he’d rather have a brain aneurysm than work for a female boss. But then there was Mr. Potential, who seemingly made all the frogs worth it. Kind to strangers, always answered your texts, rocked trivia nights like no other—and then said his heart just wasn’t in it anymore and crushed your growing affections.
Tired of running for the bloody mary’s and Ben and Jerry’s? Hey, we don’t blame you. And if you or your friends have recent stories like these, you’re not alone. Turns out, the weeks before and after Valentine’s Day are a popular time of year for breakups. Whether you're enduring a tough split yourself or helping a pal, here are nutritionists’ top tips on how to emerge from a breakup healthier than ever. And for more inspiration and cool ideas like color runs and trapeze lessons (why not?!), check out these 35 Fun Ways to Lose Weight!
1. Go easy on the booze
We know, we know. Taking an alcohol hiatus right now sounds pretty crazy considering all you want is a bloody mary (or eight) with all the accouterments. But a booze break doesn’t have to be forever—just a month or even a couple weeks can make a huge difference when it comes to regaining your footing. “Alcohol is a depressant,” says Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The WellNecessities. “It slows down the central nervous system and alters your perception and emotions. It also lowers your inhibition and ability to metabolize food properly, which could lead to late night binges and weight gain.” Or, at the very least, check out these 20 Eat This, Not That! Tips for Drinkers to do a little damage control.
2. Fall in love with cooking
It’s way better than falling for the wrong guy, right? Amen to that! “To eat healthier, start in the kitchen!” suggests Rebecca Lewis, RD for HelloFresh. “This is your time to play and be creative! Find a recipe or ingredient that is appealing to you, and approach it with a sense of adventure and a positive, can-do attitude.” Not sure where to start? Try these 20 Lazy Dinner Recipes that are as easy as they are lip smackin’ good.
3. Focus on heart-healthy foods
“Make your broken heart stronger by consuming plenty of healthy fats like nuts, avocados, and heart-healthy oils,” suggests Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, a Nashville-based nutritionist and author of Schedule Me Skinny: Plan to Lose Weight and Keep it Off in Just 30 Minutes a Week. “Try canola oil, which is great for making a veggie-rich stir-fry!” Or coconut oil—everyone’s been buzzing about the benefits of coconut oil lately!
4. Snack on pistachios
Screw oysters. And chili peppers. And all those other aphrodisiac foods. Instead, unleash the therapeutic powers of—wait for it—pistachios. “That movement of shelling the pistachios is similar to popping bubble wrap or squeezing a stress ball. It will help you to get out extra aggression and will ultimately help you to relax,” say The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “Plus, pistachios are a great source of fiber and protein to help to keep you satisfied, while their antioxidants will help to keep you healthy after your immunity has taken a hit from the stress of a breakup. You can munch on 30 of them for just 100 calories.”
5. Sip on tea
Consider it slimming chicken noodle soup for the broken hearted’s soul. “After a stressful breakup, we all need a little R&R,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Tea is warm and soothing—and if you drink black, green or oolong tea, they all contain an amino acid called theanine that brings on a mental calmness yet alertness. Sounds like it’s time to get on board The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse!
6. Ease stress by chewing on a natural, sugar-free gum
We usually don’t recommend chewing gum since it’s one of the 35 Things That Give You a Bloated Stomach, but we can make an exception in your time of love loss. First look for brands free of artificial ingredients like Simply Gum. And then get chomping when emotional eating cravings strike. “If the stress of a breakup has you feeling like you want to throw in the towel and just turn to something to munch endlessly, try chewing sugar-free gum,” explain The Nutrition Twins. “It’s very low in calories, will distract your taste buds (possibly saving you hundreds of calories) and help to prevent cavities by stimulating saliva production.” Bonus? You’ll have fresh breath for if you randomly bump into a future Mr. Even Better Potential.
7. Hit the gym. Or pavement. Or Crossfit studio
“Upping your cardio isn’t just great for your physical body, but for your mentality!” shares Hayim. “When we workout and break a sweat, our body starts to release endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones. These endorphins make us feel high—on top of the world—and help to make us feel capable of being alone.” Plus, those extra calories being burned doesn’t hurt either.
8. Just go for a walk
Alright, so the gym might seem a tad too formidable in the immediate aftermath of a breakup, but a simple walk can still work wonders until you muster up the strength to hit the gym (which you will!): “Just get out and walk! The sun, the air will make you feel better and keep you fit,” says celebrity nutritionist Lisa DeFazio, MS, RDN. Boost your efforts with these 30 Tips for When You're Walking for Weight Loss.
9. Practice better bed hygiene
If your daily wake-up routine now includes seeing a cardboard pizza box, three remote controls, and your cell phone strewn haphazardly across your bed, it’s time to snap out of it! “It may seem silly, but good bed hygiene can help you stave off the weight gain. Having good rituals, such as making the bed, using scented candles, and turning off your phone can set you up for success,” says Hayim. It’s also a way to practice being kind to yourself and spoiling yourself a little without using food or booze as a reward. “Purchasing a whole new set of sheets and bedding can help you ‘start fresh’ and feel good in your bed alone.”
10. Fill up on fiber
That void you may feel after a breakup is depressing, we know. But filling it with doublewhiskeycokenoice, rom coms, and self-pity parties isn’t doing anyone any good. Bedwell suggests filling that void in the best way possible with fiber! “Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats—as well as beans of all types—are two great sources!” suggests Bedwell. For more great picks, check out surprisingly good sources of fiber for weight loss; start slipping a few into your daily routine as you start phasing out tearjerkers like The Notebook.
11. Schedule your meals
“People will often over or undereat when they are sad and stressed, both of which can lead to weight gain. When we undereat, our body goes into ‘starvation mode’ and begins to hang on to the calories you eat in efforts to keep you alive,” explains Hayim. “But when we overeat, our body can’t use all of the fuel and ends up storing it as fat.” Having regularly scheduled meals will keep you on track, and make sure you are neither starving yourself nor bingeing. Once you establish meal times that work best for your routine, keep yourself accountable and flood your body with the vitamins and minerals that will make your body feel strong. When you’re finally feeling better, you’ll be glad you did!
12. Check in with yourself before you sit down to eat
Being mindful of your cravings is key when you’re going through an emotional time. “Before you eat, ask yourself if you are eating because you are emotional, bored, or legitimately hungry,” suggest Lewis. This quick moment of reflection might just convince you to nix the cookies and go for a brisk walk instead. To piggyback on your healthy eating success, try these 32 Kitchen Hacks for Healthy Eating.
13. Brush your teeth after every meal
Fresh breath for unexpected happy hour dates? Yeah, there’s that too. But here’s why you should adopt this strategy as part of your post-breakup MO: “You may not be used to your newly-found downtime [cough, freedom!]. While you normally would just cuddle up for a movie with your now-ex, you may now find yourself lusting over a dessert you don’t really need. Brushing your teeth at the end of each meal will discourage you from jumping back in and create clearer lines that the eating time is over,” suggests Hayim.
14. Ride that kale smoothie high
Or the bliss of that cacao nibs-infused bean brownie. Or the gentle, creamy waves of that avo toast masterpiece. Whatever it may be, let yourself soak in the luxury of how nourishing the act of eating clean can be for both your body and spirit. “Focus on how good you feel after eating certain foods. You know, that feeling of being full of energy and possibility,” says Lewis.
15. Surround yourself with loved ones
“We often want to embrace solitude after a breakup. Sometimes, we are looking for punishment, and begin to believe that we meant to be alone, which can bring this false perception to life,” cautions Hayim. “But this is not the truth! Spending time with family and friends will remind you of who you are and what you uniquely bring to the table. Plus, when we spend time alone, we may start to overthink and can engage in unhealthy habits like binge eating and sedentary activity.” Hanging with people who matter most to you is also one of the scientifically-proven 30 Ways to Be Happier This Year.
16. Zoom in on the “Shoulds”
When trying to mend a heart, it’s probably easier than ever to focus on the negatives. But it’s time to reframe your thinking! “Don't focus on what you shouldn't eat, focus on what you should! You've already had enough negativity; now think positive! Rather than cutting food groups out of your diet, focus on those you should get more of, like getting in the minimum of five fruits/veggies a day.” Veggie-adverse? This is how nutritionists get their kids to love ‘em, so we promise it’s not hopeless.
17. Remember that healthy doesn’t mean boring
From tantalizing peanut butter oats to one pot spicy eggs, there are pretty much endless options of healthy and tasty eats for you to explore. “If you need help, consider using a meal kit service like HelloFresh!” suggest Lewis. And if the best you can do is bring yourself to a nearby lunch spot, then try one of these healthy options at Chipotle and burrito bowl your way to a happier heart.
18. Shield yourself from getting sick
Fact: The stress of a breakup makes you more susceptible to colds, the flu, and cold sores. “Use this time to get extra antioxidants by loading up on vegetables and including them in every meal,” advise The Nutrition Twins. “By eating the low-calorie, high-fiber vegetables, you’ll fill up on them and have less room for the heavier stuff. In turn, you’ll get even leaner while you boost your immunity and get healthier.”
Think: veggies in your omelet at breakfast, sandwiches stacked with tomato, lettuce and peppers at lunch, veggie crudité and hummus at snack-time and broccoli, cauliflower and snow peas mixed right into the sauces at dinner.
19. Do something kind for yourself every week
“Participate in self love, as much as you can,” advises Hayim. “Treat yourself to a manicure, pedicure, massage, or whatever works for you. Taking good care of yourself will not only make you feel beautiful but will help to renew your relationship with yourself. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more equipped to handle what life throws at us.”
Extra credit: Mark a desk calendar with a big red “X” for every day you go without speaking to your former fling or flame. Once you have 15 straight days in a row, treat yourself to something fun like a rock climbing class or that paddleboard yoga excursion you always wanted to try.
20. Indulge a little every day
”Don't beat yourself up or deny yourself. You've already been through enough!” exclaims Bedwell. “Enjoy a 150-200 calorie treat each day, like an ounce of dark chocolate, a handful of potato chips, or even a glass of wine [if you feel you can allow alcohol back into your life in moderation].” Doing so can help take the edge off without derailing your healthy eating plan.
21. Hit the dancefloor
The secret about breakups? It’s a great excuse to go out of your comfort zone—or at the very least round up your friends for a girl’s night out. “Go dancing with friends burns calories and gets you out of the house,” DeFazio comments. “Plus, you may meet someone who appreciates you more than your ex ever did!” Not a fan of dancing? Join a volleyball league, group fitness class, or any other non-sedentary activity you’d been toying with but didn’t really have the time for. Instead of wasting your precious free time pretending to care about his fantasy sports league, you get to take back your non-working hours!
22. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket
The cheese puffs might be yelling “Pick me!” but try to avoid buying groceries that are processed. Instead, choose whole, fresh foods, and work around the perimeter where you’ll find the eggs, fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables. “The [foods on the shelves in the middle] usually provide little to no nutritional benefit and are high in calories,” cautions Hayim. “They also don’t fill you up right away and lead to overeating and extra caloric intake.” And yes, we know that ice cream and the grocery store’s bakery are both on the perimeter. Nice try. Making a Trader Joe’s run? Don’t miss our exclusive guide to the Best and Worst Foods at Trader Joe’s.
23. Pre-cut your produce
And salute your (skinny) shorts. “It’s key to get rid of the junk food and keep freshly washed-and-cut fruits and veggies in a place you can easily see and grab them,” advises Lewis. By prepping your fruits and veggies, you’ve got a surefire way to ensure there will be healthy options on the ready whenever hunger strikes. Why reach for a bag of chips when carrots got crunch, too?
24. Slash your sugar intake
“Cut back on the sugar. You don't need sugar in the form of him or her, or in the form of food as you thought you did!” says Bedwell, short ‘n’ sweet. Don’t miss these 30 Easy Ways to Stop Eating So Much Sugar.
25. Pick up a fun and rewarding passion project
“Take time for yourself, cry, and do what you need to do,” DeFazio advises. But after the initial dust settles, remember: “Success is the best revenge!” Ain’t that the truth? Whether you finally take cooking classes, pick up the guitar for the first time, or sign up to mentor a middle schooler, you can channel all that energy into something productive and fulfilling.