This piece originally appeared on MyRecipes.
If you’re one of those people who experience smooth, graceful, “caring” breakups that immediately and satisfyingly reveal themselves to be a “natural end to what was a beautiful chapter in both of your lives,” cool, that’s real nice, you can sit your ass down now. For most of us petty, emotionally clumsy plebeians, romantic breakups suck, sometimes they get nasty, and finding that peaceful acceptance sh*t within thyself takes a while. But what I’m hear to tell you is this: Food can help.
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Look, I’m not going to pretend to know anything about what enduring a divorce in the public eye and having to sort out custody conflicts surrounding legitimately valuable items, like children and wineries is like, BUT I would be so bold as to call myself something of an expert on breaking up (not to brag, but I specialize in getting dumped). I am really
good experienced at surviving the repercussions of gnarly romantic splits. And while I wouldn’t recommend people follow my breakup advice 100% of the time (like 2 weeks ago when I rationally explained to a heartsick friend why destroying pieces of her ex’s physical property might be technically illegal by law… but not at all an unreasonable or inadvisable thing to do), I stand firmly by my position that properly leveraging food to give you physical/emotional/mental/spiritual strength is always the right thing to do. I promise, in the immediate aftermath of a breakup, putting food in your face will prove itself a far more productive effort than dwelling over how you’re going to accomplish a list of generic, yet mildly encouraging in your weak state of being, self-help actions bookended by stock images of dead roses (signifying the remnants of your dead and empty relationship) and a symbolic silhouette of exuberance set against a warm ocean sunset (this can be you someday!).
I release this guide to eating yourself through breakup agony now, as we enter week three of Brad and Angelina’s public splitting, to emphasize that week two can be the most difficult (especially for those two, considering they’re probably surviving this debacle on green juice and Soylent). The initial days following a breakup, you’re surrounded by extra support and the whole thing is a typically big tear-blurred haze anyway. My advice for week one is this: Eat whatever your body will stomach, that’s enough. But once you enter week two, that’s when sh*t starts to get real… you’re expected to be pulled enough together to go about your daily life, but you simultaneously have to start reckoning with what the reality of going about your daily life without what’s-their-face looks like. It’s heavy and everyone processes these things differently, but again I say, food can help. The following is a guide to what foods I have found to be the most helpful. The specifics that will serve you best will ultimately have to be filled in by you, but I have provided examples within each category of what has worked well for me and close friends.
1. Whatever foods your former significant other doesn’t like.
This may sound stupid or petty, but here’s the thing: It’s not. Like other significant parts of our lives, we often sacrifice the foods we love in order to prioritize the foods they love. It’s so easy to write off as:
- “I guess it’s probably for the best that _Ex_ isn’t into Domino’s pizza, it’s not good for me anyway.”
- “I can find a friend to accompany me in grabbing the Indian food I’m craving tonight sometime next week, and I’m sure the restaurant _Ex_ (who hates Indian food) has chosen will be great!”
- “Whatever, if _Ex_ doesn’t like tomatoes, I’ll just leave them out of the tomato sauce, I’m sure it will taste almost as good.”
- “_Ex_ loves turkey burgers and claims they’re just as good as beef burgers. That’s a downright moronic claim, but I’ll eat the damn poultry patty anyway.”
And yes, compromise is great–but it only gets you so far when it comes to food. I have a friend who loves banana bread. It’s a quick and easy little sweet treat to throw together when you keep bananas around, and she does so often. But she had herself (a now ex-) boyfriend who did not like banana bread… so she stopped making it, because why the hell would she make a loaf of banana bread when bae don’t like banana bread? You only have so much time and energy in a given day, and when the person who is all up in your home to enjoy your baking/cooking most often (because this is a person who you theoretically want to make happy on a day-to-day basis) actively dislikes a certain food, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to prepare that food. I invite anyone to come at me with some “you should be an independent person and make what makes you happy, regardless of your relationship status” condescension on this one–if you actually manage to practice what you preach, way to be.
Foods I have previously given up in the context of a romantic relationship and found solace and victory in eating in the weeks after it ended include: tomatoes, avocados, cookies and brownies that contain nuts, pancakes, bananas, oatmeal, blue cheese, fancy cheeseboards, Arby’s, etc. Let me tell you, it’s empowering to embrace foods you haven’t had in a while (or at least not as often as you’d like) and say “F*ck you, I’m eating this!” Make banana bread for days, people.
If you’re still struggling on the appetite front by week two (totally valid), smoothies are an excellent food to lean on for a while. Smoothies require minimal effort to throw together and are easy to swallow even when you don’t feel up to eating. But most importantly, they’re a highly convenient vehicle for nutrients (vitamins, protein, etc.) that you’re likely not getting otherwise. Someone who has maintained at least a little physical wellness is apt to feel “OK” on the mental and emotional front faster than someone who hasn’t. Smoothies are a tasty way to make that happen through a straw. Here are are a few I’d recommend:
3. Food that feels cathartic to prepare.
Ok, I get it, tonight should have been “dinner and bowling night” with that goon, but it’s not and you’re sitting home alone. You don’t feel like going out, but remaining bound to your disheveled bed, while continuing to refresh the page on their social media accounts for signs of… you don’t even know what, is starting to feel like you’ve entered the 10th circle of hell. This is going to sound exhausting, but the thing to do here is to get your ass up and go do something with your hands/brain. Cooking is therapeutic and it doesn’t necessarily require you to leave the house. That is, unless you’ve completely let stocking your fridge and pantry go by the wayside (been there); but hey, no one at the grocery store is about to judge you at 8 PM on a Friday night, I swear, they have seen worse. So get what you need and get in the kitchen. Feel ingredients under your fingers, smell the aromas they give off–you’re here, where you’re supposed to be, away from that ass-face, and you’re engaged with the moment. And you’re about to have some bomb food to show for it.
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A cathartic food to make might be any number of things for you–a nostalgic dish, something simple, something you’re just really damn good at cooking. I tend to lean towards things that require a lot of chopping (like a soup or Bolognese sauce) or something that gets my hand all up in some dough (like pies or biscuits).
P.S. The part I said above about having “bomb food to show” for your efforts? Yeah, please don’t get down on yourself if you actually end up burning or otherwise messing up whatever you’re cooking. It’s likely to happen in times such as these, but the important part was making it.
4. Shared Food.
I’m aware this likely contradicts every bit of “healthy” advice you may ever receive, but this is my guide to breaking up, and I say get yo drink on. *Note: But only if you want to; I have plenty of friends who have absolutely zero desire to pick up a bottle when they’re going through sh*t, and that’s totally valid; I’m not here to pressure anyone. But I know some light boozing often helps me to open up and release tension I tend to aggressively hold onto. Obviously, you know you best on this one–but my point in putting it on the list is to say, that if you want to throw back a couple of bourbons or martinis during this week with (or without) a friend, and get really angry or sob or whatever, it’s not something to feel bad about. And if you drunk text/call that ex… that’s also not such a big freaking deal. Honestly, what do you care what they think of it? If you felt inclined to say it to them once you had a buzz on, it’s probably something you have genuinely felt sober, so they might as well know.
And again, I’m not saying to go out and get smashed on sh*tty vodka shots every night. Hitting the ears of the wrong person, this is downright bad advice–so here’s the other part of it, don’t be that person. Have your therapeutically wasted night if you need it, suffer the hangover, then proceed with your boozing like an adult. Put yourself in bed with a glass of wine and a book, and maybe let some tears out of your face. Or make yourself a nice cocktail with a touch of sour and a nice bitter backbone to reflect the state of your soul and say “cheers” to where you are in the healing process.
And yo, little pro-tip, the next time you feel compelled to pick up your phone after you’ve had a drink or two, I recommend that first, you put a pen to paper and write it all out. Write to them, to yourself, to whoever–you won’t regret doing it.
OK, sorry if this insults your basic instincts for survival, but I have to put water on the list. Because I can’t emphasize enough how critical hydration is to success, no matter what’s going on in your life. If you take no other advice away from me today (I won’t be offended), please do let this tidbit sink in: Hydration is the key to happiness. Everything, even a nasty breakup, looks better through well-hydrated eyes. This is especially important if you partake in suggestion #5 above.
7. Crunchy food.
I have nothing of scientific merit to offer you that backs this up, but I’m pretty positive chomping on crunchy foods is an effective way to release tension. They’re basically like the edible version of a stress ball. And if nothing else, you can always pretend you’re pulverizing the bones of your former sweet boo thang in between your powerful independent molars as you chomp down on carrot sticks, handfuls of crappy children’s cereal, pork rinds, your cheesy snack cracker of choice, or, my personal favorite, Doritos.
Fun Fact: I literally survived the first week of my most recent breakup on nothing but Doritos (family-sized bags of both Cool Ranch and Nacho Cheese). I would not advise this, as my gums began to swell after a few days from the sodium spike… which helped absolutely nothing. Point being, be wise and take all things in moderation.
8. Whatever food you obtain with your rebound.
Obviously (or at least I hope it’s obvious), use your personal discretion on this one. But I’d be lying if I said that enjoying some grub and banter with someone who doesn’t know or care a single thing about the person I’m recovering from hasn’t proven healing and helpful for me on occasion.
And hey, if you don’t “rebound,” or think I’m some sort of doofus for suggesting it, that’s A-OK. But next time you find yourself in a breakup recovery situation, try getting dressed and taking yourself out to nice meal instead–whatever that means to you. Sit at the bar and make light conversation with new people, or sit by yourself and enjoy where you’re at. You deserve a meal out and some time set aside purely for your enjoyment, either way.