The Truth About Why a Breakup Can Cause Weight Loss

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Most people don't choose to go on the heartbreak diet. Weight loss sometimes just happens after a split. But is it healthy? And can you expect to keep the pounds off? Experts weigh in on why weight loss after a breakup occurs and what you should do if this happens.


To find out why we often lose weight after a breakup or divorce, we went to stress experts Dr. Dan Guerra and Dr. Dana Gionta. These New York City psychologists teamed up to write "From Stressed to Centered: A Practical Guide to a Healthier and Happier You." They explained how psychological stress can create a physical change in your body.

"The truth is that some people lose weight during stress and others gain weight," says Dr. Guerra. "This relates to different types of metabolisms across individuals and it also relates to how we process stress, psychologically."


A study in the Journal of Family Issues also found that divorced people had lower body weight than people who were either continuously in a relationship or continuously single. According to Dr. Gionta, grief and depression can slow the metabolism of the body, so we require less food. Alternatively, she says that our anxiety levels may become significantly heightened and that can cause symptoms in the digestive, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems.

Psychological and physical changes that occur during a breakup can easily result in changes to your regular eating habits—either a reduced appetite or avoidance of eating altogether.


If you lose weight after a breakup, is it reasonable to keep the weight off as you build a newly-single life? The answer depends on a few factors, including your health and your own feelings about your weight.

Dr. Gionta explains that if you were previously happy with your weight and you slimmed down as a result of stress, it's likely that you'll return to your normal eating habits when you rebuild your life, and your weight will rebound.

However, the change also depends on the behaviors that caused the weight loss. They may not be realistic to sustain, so although someone may be motivated to maintain that lifestyle, it may be unrealistic. It's also important to get expert advice about the best healthy weight for you, says Dr. Guerra.

"I recommend consulting a physician and/or nutritional expert to assess what weight level is optimal for you."

Health Considerations

If your new weight is healthy and you're interested in keeping the extra weight off, there are a few lifestyle tips that Dr. Guerra and Dr. Gionta recommend to keep your body in great shape as you transition into your new single life.

Be (Reasonably) Selfish

Your split will give you more time to focus on yourself and your new healthy habits.

"See this as an opportunity for a new you!" says Dr. Guerra. "It was likely tough to end your relationship, but with this extra weight that has come off, you may have more confidence and better health as you enter a new one in the future." He suggests that you take time to work out

"Moderate exercise will keep you looking great while also stimulating the production of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine so you can keep those emotions at healthy levels too."

Pay Attention To Patterns

Be mindful of your new eating patterns so that you can evaluate how they affect your new weight. Dr. Gionta says that this will help you to determine what works best for you to maintain your new weight.

"Some people weigh themselves daily to determine the effects of certain foods, portion size, and meal times on their weight. For others, two to three times a week may work best," Dr. Gionta says.

Eat Nutritious Meals and Snacks

During stressful times, good nutrition is essential. Do your best to maintain a healthy eating routine with regular meals throughout the day. Dr. Gionta also adds that it's also important to consume enough protein during this transitional phase.

Prioritize Rest

"Get sufficient sleep," says Dr. Gionta, "at least 7-8 hours each night. Adequate sleep will help moderate cravings for carbohydrates and sugar, often heightened by lack of energy from poor or insufficient sleep."

Not only does sleep affect your cravings, but eating the right carbohydrate and fat blend can help improve the quality of your sleep, according to a review in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

A Word From Verywell

Remember that since stress can affect your body in different ways, your weight may fluctuate during and after your split. Your break-up weight loss may be followed by a period of break-up weight gain after the heartbreak diet is done. Take mindful steps to stay healthy during the transition so that you move forward into your new life with improved confidence and a strong, fit body.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gionta D, Guerra D. From Stressed to Centered: A Practical Guide to a Healthier and Happier You. Amazon Digital Services LLC - Kdp Print Usr; 2015.

  2. Teachman J. Body weight, marital status, and changes in marital status. J Fam Issues. 2016;37(1):74-96. doi:10.1177/0192513X13508404

  3. Wilson K, St-Onge MP, Tasali E. Diet composition and objectively assessed sleep quality: a narrative reviewJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2022;0(0). doi:10.1016/j.jand.2022.01.007

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.