The Heartbreak Diet and Revenge Bodies

Today we’re talking about why people lose weight after a breakup. When a relationship ends, sometimes people’s body type and diet change. Why does that happen? What’s the psychology behind it? Is it healthy? Is it not healthy? 

Depressed Heart, Depressed Body: The Heartbreak Diet

Diet or not diet, some people just lose weight after a relationship. It’s often for one of two reasons, each one with its intricacies. The first one is what we call the “heartbreak diet.” If you’re in a bad breakup, separation, or divorce, you might, unfortunately, find yourself suffering from depression.

There could be some anxiety as well, and being depressed or anxious will reduce your sense of hunger, your appetite. It doesn’t always happen but it’s also not uncommon, particularly after a bad breakup. The “heartbreak diet” has become a colloquial term precisely because this has happens to a lot of people. 

If you notice you are skipping meals, or that food doesn’t have the same enjoyment, or the same flavor (some people even report a lost sense of taste), that’s a sign that your emotional state has overflooded your body. That’s the “heartbreak diet” and people can lose a significant amount of weight. Depression can drive you to starvation if it’s not addressed timely

The heartbreak diet can also manifest itself with the opposite behavior. If you’re like me who comes from a large Jewish family, you stress eat. For a lot of people, when they go through a break up or get dumped, they eat and eat because the food is comforting to them. 

Especially if you’re like me and grew up in a house where if you were sad, your mom made you food to help you feel better. You develop the inclination to eat in rough times to make yourself feel loved. This emotional relationship with food will likely rear its ugly old head when you’re going through a difficult breakup.

The Revenge Body: A Healthier Alternative?

The second reason why some people change their body type after a breakup is that they intentionally go on a diet or an exercise plan to get what is often referred to as a “revenge body.” I’ve been married for over 12 years but I can remember that when I was dating and I didn’t see an ex for a while, if when I saw her again she’d gained some weight I didn’t feel the sting of the breakup as much as if she had got in fantastic shape, then I’d think “Oh, I missed the boat on that one”.

With the “revenge body”, the point is to make your ex regret that they dumped you. And the opposite is also true. If someone dumped you and you’re sad and you bump into them a couple of months later at the grocery store or a club, and you’ve put on 10, 15, or, 20 pounds, it doesn’t feel great.

A lot of people have taken to develop this “revenge body” and there’s a healthy sense of ambition there, a healthy sense of confidence that can come from it, but it can go overboard. We’ll get into that in a second. But before, I want to talk about why, today, the “revenge body” is more common than just getting over the relationship, or falling into the heartbreak diet. 

Social Media as Relationship Advisor

It’s because of social media. Social media has a huge impact on what people do after a breakup. Before social media, you either consulted your friends, a coach or therapist, a family member, or even a TV personality like Oprah. Those were your confidants and guides.

Today you have Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and all these social media platforms where people are more than eager to give you advice on how to get over your ex and what you should do to move on.

Some people don’t even consult their friends anymore. They go to social media, to these gurus, conveniently forgetting that they’re trying to sell you something, and they take their advice as gospel. Why? Because the people that they watch on these social media platforms portray an image of someone who has it together. 

They’re in shape, they’re happy, and they’re doing well financially. They’re typically either happily married or showing themselves dating a whole plethora of beautiful people. And that image is very easy to manufacture. It’s easy to trick people into thinking “Oh, I’m just going to listen to this guy, my friends don’t know what the hell they’re talking about”

Social media has brought some toxicity to it. Now, if it gets you motivated to exercise and get healthy and lose a couple of pounds and get back on your feet, I have no problem with it. But if it goes to an extreme, then that’s a problem. And there are other reasons why social media has made this so much of a phenomenon than it used to be. 

Everyone is Watching Everyone

The first reason is that your ex can see you on social media if you are the kind of person who posts pictures or videos to every social platform and you’re not intending on blocking your ex. And even if you are, you know one of their friends is gonna spy on you.

Then chances are there’s going to be a motivation for you to get in shape and get that “revenge body” because you’re not wondering if you’re gonna bump into your ex anymore. They’re going to see you on all of your social platforms. It’s a pervasive thing that exists in our modern culture.

If you are on social media and you’re constantly posting, guess what? Your ex is going to see what you look like and how you’re doing. 

Then that “revenge body” motivation isn’t so much about that accidental bump anymore. It’s almost a certainty that your ex is gonna look you up, or someone is going to tell them: “Hey, have you seen so-and-so lately? They’re looking pretty good.” There’s that big motivation there. 

The second reason for this modern phenomenon is that the image you project on social media has been tied to self-confidence. If you’re unable to show that “revenge body”, then your social circle starts to notice. They say: “Oh, you’re slipping”, “She’s taking the breakup badly”.

And there’s a sense of fear that your friends will either abandon you, or they won’t leave you alone, because they don’t wanna be with a “Debbie Downer”, or they’ll do the opposite and want to cuddle, and you don’t want that either. So there’s you, and there’s the social media portrayal of who you are. 

Your physique, the way you smile, and the way you dress are all people can see. You can put a couple of hashtags in there but you know people are making their judgment based on the photograph, not the hashtags. And there are many fitness gurus online perpetuating this idea, and this is the third thing about why social media has made such a big impact on this issue.

Fitness Gurus Everywhere

These social media fitness gurus are trainers who are trying to sell their programs or services perpetuating the idea that if you are not physically healthy, you can’t get mentally fit. And I’ve actually heard people say: “Don’t you wanna make your ex jealous?”

That’s how they’re selling their stuff. But again, if that’s the motivation you need to get in shape,  fantastic. It doesn’t work for me. I’m happily married, very happily married, but even when I was single, that wasn’t the motivation to exercise. But if that works for you, great.

And I’m sure there are spin classes and Zumba classes, Pilates, and whatever, that have that type of aggressive motivation. And it’s fun. I’ll admit that it’s fun. Where it gets dangerous is if you become obsessive about it and you are getting physically unhealthy.

If you’re skipping meals if you’re going on any kind of extreme diet, Paleo, Keto, Keto plus Paleo, and you’re a celiac, and you’ve reduced down to eating nothing but almonds and a hard-boiled egg, that could be very dangerous. Also, if you find yourself working out to an extreme, several hours a day, that can also be very dangerous, especially if you’re coming from a cold start.

Take it Slow

So take it slow. For any kind of physical change or any diet change that you embrace, you should consult a nutritionist or a physician first. Your physician, your general doctor, consult someone who’s a professional in the medical field. If you’re gonna make any kind of physical changes to your movement or your intake of food, you should consult with somebody who’s not just selling you a: “System on how to lose”. 

Especially if they don’t have MD at the end of their name. It’s a very unregulated industry. And I love the idea of people picking themself up by their bootstraps, getting in shape, and getting back into the dating world, I think that’s an incredibly healthy thing to do.

And if you have a “revenge body” and you’re proud of it and you want to show it off on your social media, by all means, go for it. Just don’t do it to an extreme and don’t do it overnight. You have to build up your stamina. If you’re gonna change your diet, don’t cut out things that you need.

Because your body is going to get very angry at you, I had a client once who was on a carnivore diet because he heard about it on a podcast. And then that wasn’t working for him. So he switched to eating a lot of spinach, and boom! He got kidney stones. Yes, he was losing weight and yes, he was looking great, but he ended up in the hospital with extreme pain and you want to avoid things like that.

Go For It As Long as It’s Healthy

So “revenge bodies” are great. I would say “heartbreak diets” are not so great. But even if you find there’s a positive motivation to get in there, don’t go to the extreme. Keep things sane, keep things healthy.

Allow yourself to grow into a healthier lifestyle that will hopefully build your confidence over the long term and not this short blip on the radar, where you’re just trying to make your ex jealous over the phone.

If a “revenge body” is the motivation you need to get healthy, I’m not gonna judge that. Aim for it as long as it’s healthy. My big concern is just general health.

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