Divorce is inherently stressful, and that strain increases the rate of early mortality by up to 250 percent. When a marriage ends, it prompts wholesale changes to a person’s lifestyle. Just about every aspect of a man’s life is impacted, including – a new study shows – his diet.
A recent study published in Social Science & Medicine discovered that ending a marriage could lead to a less healthy diet for men.
The study, which included 11,577 participants aged about 40 to 80 in the United Kingdom, assessed the health of participants’ diets over a span of 10 years by measuring the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables consumed.
Men whose marriage ended during the course of the study reduced their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables by about 25% compared to men who stayed married. Women’s diets did not change significantly.
This isn’t surprising, considering the societal norms of the demographic examined.
“For this generation, born in the 1920s to 1960s, food skills and behaviors would have been highly gendered, with women having primary responsibility for shopping and preparing meals,” the study’s lead author, Pablo Monsivais, told the Wall-Street Journal in an email.
This nutritional decline can have serious consequences for men who divorce. A lack of fruits and vegetables puts a person at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.
It’s also common for guys to turn to unhealthy comfort foods after a breakup. When you’re stressed and don’t feel good, it’s tempting to just crash on the couch with some pizza and beer. But that can quickly become a routine, which will hurt your health and could delay the entire divorce recovery process.
Here are 4 tips for improving your diet and maintaining your overall health during any stage of the divorce process:
Eat fresh and avoid comfort foods
People turn to sugary, fatty and salty foods to help themselves feel better, but these foods actually have the opposite effect. You might receive a short-term sugar high, but researchers have found the consumption of sugary processed foods can elevate depression.
Make sure you consume plenty of fruits and veggies, which are high in healthy vitamins.
It’s also smart to try to mix salmon into your diet since it is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help ward off depression.
Plan your meals
Cooking is time consuming, and day-to-day stress makes it tempting to just grab some McDonald’s on the way home and call it a night.
It’s helpful to plan your meals for the week ahead of time. Write out what you’re going to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a calendar and use Sunday as a meal-prep day to cook as many of your meals for the week ahead of time as you can.
If you can afford it, there are also a number of companies across the country that deliver healthy meals to your door that require minimal prep on your end.
In addition to eating right, it’s also important to make daily exercise part of your routine.
Numerous studies show exercise leads to a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression.
Don’t feel like you have to be a world-class athlete or spend numerous hours at the gym to benefit from exercise. Just 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise can yield enormous benefits. Another study recently found that just 1 minute of all-out exercise could have the same benefits of 45 minutes of moderate exertion.
If you enjoy exercise it can also be a great way to expand your social circle. You could join an intermural basketball league, a running club, start taking some Crossfit classes or even just find a friend to take walks with.
Get plenty of sleep
Many guys understandably find it tough to sleep during and after a divorce as that is often the time when all the stress and heartache of the split catches up to them.
A lack of sleep increases a person’s risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease and over time has been associated with a shortened lifespan.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends all adults get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night. It’s not always easy finding the time to get that much sleep and actually falling asleep presents its own set of challenges, but it’s important to do what you can to establish a routine.
Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. Get rid of electronics in the room, too, because their screens trigger chemicals in the brain that tell your body it’s time to wake up.
If sleep deprivation is a consistent issue, you might need to seek professional help.