If you’ve ever read a magazine article on how to deal with a breakup, or you’ve ever watched a movie or TV show about a girl going through a breakup, then you know that the main remedy, it seems, is a carton of Ben & Jerry’s and probably a bag of chips. This is nice advice, because ice cream is delicious and a great mood-booster, but unfortunately, it probably isn’t the best advice. According to recent research, something weird happens to us during a breakup – we lose our appetite, and so the last thing we want to do is binge on something, even something as irresistible as Phish Food.
If you’ve gone through a breakup, then you’re probably nodding and thinking, “yes, exactly,” right about now. Why is the fictional world obsessed with showing women weeping into a carton of ice cream when the reality is more like a woman pushing away her food because she literally doesn’t want to eat anything? You’re not alone in wondering that – this research comes from a writer for Vice, who decided to do some investigating into why we lose our appetites in the face of heartbreak.
As it turns out, there are a few reasons why you feel like you can’t, or don’t want to, eat when you’ve been dumped. One: going through a breakup is really stressful, and you will react to it the way your body would react to any kind of major stress: “a higher heart rate and increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline.” This is one reason you won’t want to eat – it’s also the reason you won’t be able to sleep.
This combination also puts your body into survival mode. Your body is fighting off a lot of stress and the emotional responses that go along with that. This can cause your sympathetic nervous system to kick in, and that’s the system that gets your body to respond quickly to an emergency situation. This feeling is telling your body that hunger isn’t as important as surviving and getting through this – so your appetite gets suppressed. It’s actually really cool to think about!
Aside from survival mode preventing you from feeling hungry, your emotions are also playing a major part in it. Feeling that depressed, angry, heartbroken, and stressed can not only decrease your appetite, but also even change the way you taste things. So, suddenly the food you normally love is, well, boring and tasteless. That’s normal, as it turns out.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why dudes don’t seem to be affected this way, there’s a legit reason: men and women process heartbreak differently, and it’s common for women to experience more stomach problems or appetite loss than men.
This all makes sense to me, on a personal level. I’ve always found that when I get too upset or angry or stressed out, I can’t eat. I lose my appetite and everything I do get in my mouth tastes blah and horrible. I noticed this especially when I was going through a bad breakup a few years ago. I was so, so, so sad, and I found myself going hours and even almost entire days without feeling any desire to eat. It was actually pretty horrible and definitely very strange. Even now, if I get in a big fight with someone and I’m very upset, I find my appetite immediately disappears.
So, the moral of the story is this: the next time you go through a breakup, maybe wait a bit on the Ben & Jerry’s. Focus on getting your stress levels down before anything else.
Does this happen to you when you’re feeling heartbreak or extreme emotions? Let us know in the comments!