Stress, with all of its myriad of symptoms, and divorce go hand-in-hand. This is nothing to necessarily panic about- you have enough on your mind; but, you should be forewarned about the impact a divorce can have on your body and how you may notice changes in your weight as a result.
Leading symptoms of stress include:fatigue, mood changes, depression, difficulty focusing, increased susceptibility for illness, and changes in appetite, which can either lead to significant weight loss or weight gain.
Each of us responds to stress differently, and some of us are better-equipped to endure it because we have learned strategies that work well for us to diminish its effects.
No matter who you are, divorce is especially difficult.
The Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) was developed to rank the 43 most stressful life events and determine what their contribution is to stress and stress-related illness. The more points an individual scores in a 12-month period, the greater chance they will experience negative consequences as a result. Less than 150 points represents a 30% likelihood of suffering from stress. 150-299 points indicates chances of stress increasing by 50%, and a score over 300 means an 80% chance of illness caused by stress!
Divorce is number two on the list (followed by death of a spouse), and separation of a marriage is number three. Most likely a large number of us completed a separation and the finalization of a divorce within a year’s time, and more still could add on points for other stressors associated with divorce such as moving, changes in financial status, increased arguments with a spouse (a given with a separation or divorce in the works).
I scored 260 on the scale for the events from the scale that occurred during the 12 months of my marriage’s end and my divorce! I would imagine my score is actually higher because I had a lot of other family negativity occurring at the same time, which is not listed specifically on the scale, but definitely had an impact on me.
I experienced sleeplessness, constant worry, depression, menstrual problems, and a host of others from the common list of usual suspects of stress, and I also saw significant changes to my weight related to the emotional changes I entered with divorce.
At first I lost a lot of weight. I lost my appetite because I was so distracted by worry. I recall people telling me how great I looked and asking what my secret was. “The divorce diet!” was what I half-quipped whenever someone would comment on my appearance. I can’t say that I was terribly upset to shed a few pounds, but I also knew that starvation on top of insomnia and depression wasn’t exactly the healthiest prescription for weight loss!
My life balanced out, and so did my weight; but new stressors eventually entered my life in the form of four step children and my husband’s high conflict ex.
This time when stress entered my life I resorted to eating for comfort, also known to many as “stress eating” to combat my uneasiness. The result was putting all the pounds I had lost in divorce and then some!
Clearly, I have issues with my relationships with food and stress that I need to work on.
Here are some things for you to bear in mind as you endure the stress of divorce to help prevent some of the negative consequences, including weight changes:
Take care of yourself! If you find that you’re not eating a normal amount each day, make yourself eat whether you actually feel like it or not. Food is fuel that your body needs to remain strong and healthy, and you will need all the strength you can get during divorce! The healthier your diet the better so that you have the proper intake of nutrition to remain healthy. The same goes for proper sleep, hydration, and other things you should do to keep your strength.
Don’t fill up voids in your life through your stomach! Eating can offer tremendous comfort and satisfaction when it seems nothing else can; but this is a sign that you are in need of an emotional outlet and may need to stop food from becoming your best buddy! A pint of ice cream on a bad day in front of a movie that always makes you cry is perfectly excusable now and then. Just don’t turn to your pal Little Debbie every time you’re feeling down!
Explore outlets for stress! It’s always best practice to have plenty of tools in your toolbox to combat stress. What works for one person may not be the key for another, so experiment with different things until you find what does the trick for you! Consider music, journaling, exercise, a creative project, keeping yourself busy volunteering, or talking to a friend.
Don’t invite multiple bad habits into your life when stress calls! Some tend to turn to alcohol, smoking, drugs, or making very poor decisions when under the influence of stress. Stress does enough damage to one’s body, so piling addiction and more negative health consequences on top of an already bad situation could end up making you feel worse or actually subtracting time and quality from your life!
Weight ain’t nothing but a number! The bottom line is that your body is yours no matter what anyone else thinks or says! Your value as a person is not in direct correlation with the number on your bath scale. It’s not abnormal to fluctuate during rough patches of life, just be careful not to let it get out of control or rob you of good health! Love yourself no matter what the number inside your pants says!
If you need help, go get it! There is no shame in seeking help from loved ones or even a professional if you are struggling under the pressure of divorce. You should tell your doctor or a counselor if you struggle with depression, sleep, your appetite, or anything else that’s keeping your from feeling your best!
Just as life takes ups and downs, so too might your weight, especially during a divorce. Though it may be a typical side effect of a stressful situation, you may find it to be troublesome for a number of reasons. Be forewarned of the toll divorce can take on all aspects of your health, and be prepared with some strategies to help you stand up to the challenge as best possible!