Going through a divorce or a difficult break-up is well documented as “one of the most stressful life events we are ever likely to experience”.
For most of us, this statement doesn’t even begin to touch on the emotional turbulence that we can find ourselves in – a turmoil that can be very difficult to navigate. And the repercussions can seep into our whole lives.
As a health and nutrition coach, I so often find my clients reacting to the hurt, anger and distress of their personal situations with a negative attitude towards themselves and their health.
Thrown into unfamiliar territory and extremes of emotion, we can become worried, scared and often ashamed – frequently turning this against ourselves. And most often this is completely unconscious.
If you find yourself numbing yourself out with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s / bottle of wine or slumped in front of the tv with a takeaway “because I deserve it”, the reality is that it’s often a form of hiding or denial.
On the other extreme we often attempt to show the world we are coping – switching into our “I Will Survive” mode, usually fuelled with coffee, sugar, alcohol and stimulants.
But this rollercoaster of highs and lows wreaks havoc with our bood sugar, with our moods and with our health. And it doesn’t ever resolve the feelings of anger & distress. We can find ourselves gaining weight, finding trouble concentrating, unable to sleep and generally feeling like we want to snap the head of anybody who dares to come near.
It is incredibly important at times like these to look after ourselves well. I’m all for a bit of pampering – but it is really important to learn to discern when the pampering is true caring and when it is really just a way of numbing out the pain.
Dieting, denying ourselves, or imposing strict new regimes at times of real distress rarely works – its too punishing.
But neither does abandoning all boundaries. A more gentle approach to introducing new habits can really help bring some peace and balance back into your life, so that you can begin to take steps forward.
There are lots of really effective ways to start to redress this balance – to smooth away the jagged edges and gently coax your body and emotions back into a more tranquil and pleasurable place. I would like to share a couple of them here.
PART ONE 1- Calm the turbulent emotional seas – with food
Divorce and break up are times of extremes. Extreme sadness, extreme anger – and often extreme distress. Day to day living on this see-saw of energy will wear you out. Understanding the part that food plays in exacerbating this is the first stage in gently bringing yourself back to balance.
In Eastern traditions, from Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a deeper understanding and respect for the energy of different foods and their effect on your body – both physical and emotional.
The basic principles are broadly the same.
Foods at one end of the scale have a heavy (or ‘yang’) energy – and include meat, fats, salt and dairy. In moderation these foods are grounding and can make us feel nourished and satisfied (think of a hearty beef stew in winter). But too much will make us sluggish, blocked, tired and low.
At the other end of the scale, lighter ‘yin’ foods include sugar, coffee, alcohol and stimulants. In moderation these can be energising, like a good cup of coffee with breakfast or a glass of prosecco with a friend. But too much of these can cause you to become scattered, restless, wired and anxious.
It’s a bit like a see-saw. The majority of us live bouncing wildly between the two extremes of this scale.
For example, salty nuts will make us want more alcohol. Too much sugar and coffee all day has us desperate for a huge plate of pasta in the evening. Too much of one extreme leaves us craving the other – creating a vicious cycle of craving and addiction.
Heavy: Meat, Sweets, Cakes, Eggs, Cheese, Salt
Heavy/Balanced: Fish, Poultry, Whole Grains, Nuts, Seeds
Balanced: Vegetables, Oils
Balanced/Light: Beans, Fruit, Root Veg
Light: Sugar, Coffee, Alcohol
Whilst a little of everything is fine for most people, the most effective way to start to feel more calm and settled is to choose predominantly foods at the centre of this energy scale.
And if you do want to eat from the far ends, don’t overdo it – and make sure you balance it with some foods from the other end.
This might sound complicated to start with, but once you start to explore and pay attention to the difference this makes – both to your body and your emotions, you will you will find yourself naturally veering towards choices that make you feel better.
There is a great quote that says “how you are with anything is how you are with everything”.
Never is this more true than with food. The more you start to feel calm and balanced in your food choices, without forcing it, the more you will see this reflected in other areas of your life.
Jules is a mother and integrative health & nutrition coach, helping busy, overwhelmed and exhausted parents and professionals lose weight, look younger and feel healthier & happier.
With a 1st class Honours Chemistry degree from Edinburgh University, and many years of personal study and exploration, she went on to train with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York, with pioneers in the health industry such as Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weill and Mark Hyman.
Jules also qualified as a yoga teacher at The Yoga Academy with internationally acclaimed yoga teacher Simon Low and integrates many relaxation techniques into her programmes. She is a firm believer in great food and eating what you love!