Eating through trauma is a misnomer. Because when you’re in trauma, you simply can’t eat. Even though our body needs essential nutrients to recover from the trauma our body is experiencing, it’s just not possible. When we are in trauma from heartbreak, it’s like a double whammy of heart pain and shock. And I have some ways to help your body recover from the trauma so that you can eat again.
The first thing our body does when we are in trauma is shut down. A series of events that include a cascade of hormones get released into our system. Our body isn’t concerned with eating or reading a magazine or even going for a walk. The main reason for this is that our brain freezes. But not everyone goes through deep trauma.
The FAST TRACK of heartbreak
When we are in heartbreak, our reaction can be one of two pathways. One way is that we grieve and get over it eventually. I call this the heartbreak “Fast Track.” You knew that it wasn’t right for a long time or even from the beginning. And you rationalized your way through it, made excuses, forgave, made more excuses, repeat. Until one day, something happened, a catalyst, an event that made it impossible to stay with your partner.
You had to break up. As you experienced shock and trauma, your sympathetic nervous system kicks in. When this happens, your body registers danger, and you go into fight, flight, or freeze. This is when you take a mental health day and cry it out. But this doesn’t last long because then you go into pain and anger. Your body starts to feel what your brain is telling you.
It might feel like you were just hit by a truck; you might even get the flu. Then when you’re better, you might decide to send the anger back to yourself and question why your partner left you.
Digesting your trauma
You might ask, “Wasn’t I pretty enough or smart enough?”. Your anger might seep out to those around you, and you might lash out, or more likely, you internalize the anger and disappointment by self-sabotaging techniques. Common ones are drinking a bit too much or eating anything sweet, salty or fat that will temporarily make you feel better.
According to ANAD.org, 80% or women worldwide suffer from an eating disorder and that eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose. As serious as an eating disorder is, you not realize that your Friday night wine and chips “just because you deserve it” or when you reach for that tub of ice cream and then suddenly realize you’ve eaten the whole thing are more subtle forms.
The favorite recovery foods include chocolate, anything ice cream, chocolate cake, cookies, and anything creamy and sweet. And then, after making yourself sick, you eventually stop eating these foods and move to the next stage of heartbreak.
Adjusting your behavior
It’s still hard to believe that they left you, but now you move on and adjust your behavior. You realize that you are a great catch and that they just weren’t meant for you. Then you decide to stop dating for a while and to regroup. Finally, you join a gym, go on a diet, and start reading motivational books. And you stay clear of dating for a while.
You went through all the stages of heartbreak and then got back on your feet to greet a new day and a new life. Of course, the timeline for the “fast track” varies, but it doesn’t last for years but more like months. And then there is the “slow track.”
The SLOW TRACK of heartbreak
When you are in the “slow track” of heartbreak, you get stuck. You get stuck in the beginning phases of shock and trauma. This happens because there is an underlying trauma that has always been there since childhood and before.
This underlying trauma is also known as inherited trauma. Unbeknownst to you, you may have trauma that has been carried through your genes from three generations back. This is an unconscious state of trauma, that may have been handed down from your great grandmother. In a famous study done by Rachel Yahooda, the offspring of Holocaust survivors were studied. They showed evidence of epigenetic markers of trauma (PTSD) when there was no trauma. Concluding that trauma is inherited.
But when there is no way of finding out about your ancestry, you must proceed with the understanding that the trauma you are facing is having a real detrimental effect on your life.
When your body is in trauma, your frontal lobe shuts down. The frontal lobe is our control panel. It’s responsible for emotional expression, problem solving, memory, language, judgment, and sexual behaviors.
Without the functioning of our frontal lobe, we become unable to express ourselves and make good decisions for ourselves. And when in trauma, you can’t even think, make, or eat food. So how can this article be on Eating through the trauma of heartbreak when you can’t eat?
That is the challenge. Because when you are in deep trauma for months, even years, you don’t have the desire to eat or even the ability to feed yourself. It can be devastating to your health.
So how do we overcome the traumatic effects of heartbreak, so that we can eat and maintain our health to function?
We start with calming the body down
The first line of action when you are in trauma is to get grounded.
My favorite grounding techniques are:
- Earthing – Proven to calm your nervous system instantly is to go out into nature. Walk barefoot in the grass. Go for a walk in the woods, and my favorite, hug some juicy trees.
- Breathwork – Another very effective way to calm your nervous system is breathing deeply in systematic ways to keep you in the present and tranquil.
- Meditation – This ancient practice of doing nothing and being still can become a welcome solace for your nervous system.
Eating Calming Foods
Once you have a handle on the anxiety and panic, then you can nurture your system by keeping your food intake calm as well.
Some calming foods include:
– Bone broth
– Gentle (non-spicy) hearty soups – vegetable soups, etc.
– Stews, chili’s (non-spicy)
– Soft foods like yogurt, hummus, guacamole
– Oatmeal, smoothies
– Calming teas like lavender, chamomile, tulsi
Eating Calmly through trauma
How we eat plays a significant role in how well our body can absorb the nutrients. And when you are in trauma, absorption is critical for repairing the body. Here are six key behaviors for calm eating:
- Eat in a quiet setting. Remove electronics, computer, and TV. Hide the cell phone. Eat with calm people or remove yourself from the disruptive energy.
- Order your eating. Eat fruit away from main meals. Sweets and fruit are forms of glucose. Glucose, since it’s essential for brain function, always gets digested first. So
when you eat your main meal and have sweets right after, the sugars end up sitting in your small intestine, fermenting causing bloating and indigestion and eventually Leaky
Gut, inflammation leading to other system failures.
- Combine your foods correctly. Carbs and vegetables, protein and vegetables and avoid carbohydrates with protein.
- Rethink your quantities. Your body requires smaller, more frequent meals. Six smaller meals as opposed to 3 more substantial meals. Eat until you are 80% full only.
- Eat when you need energy. At the beginning of the day is when you refuel. So eat your larger meal in the middle of the day with carbs and avoid carbs later in the day when
your body is winding down.
- Why are you eating? Are you eating to feed your emotions or to refuel and rebuild? Eating for emotional wellbeing doesn’t work. Address this tendency through coaching, and therapy.
Even if you are in the “slow track” of healing from heartbreak, your trauma can be managed by how you are eating. Once you bring your frontal lobe back online by grounding, you can slowly integrate healthier, gentler foods and eating habits to allow your body to recover more quickly from the trauma of heartbreak.