Do Breakups Really Make You Gain Weight?

After you go through a breakup, you may be tempted to spend a few days (or weeks) sitting at home curled up on the couch, binging your favorite show, and eating your favorite comfort foods. But while that sounds tempting, most people won't actually start packing on pounds while dealing with a broken heart. 

In fact, a study published in 2019 found that most people won't change their weight just because they've changed their dating status. Over 65 percent of study participants reported no weight change post-breakup, and those who did were primarily people who had a history of emotional eating. 

The origin of the breakup weight gain concept dates back to before those early-2000's rom-coms, though: researchers actually speculate that the idea of emotional eating is based on food hoarding habits from thousands of years ago. "Food was much scarcer in the ancestral environment, so if your partner abandoned you, it could have made gathering food much harder," Marissa Harrison, associate professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg, explained in a press release from the university. "It may have made sense if our ancestors hoarded food after a breakup. But our research showed that while it's possible people may drown their sorrows in ice cream for a day or two, modern humans do not tend to gain weight after a breakup."

What if you are gaining weight post-breakup?

Since we no longer need to hoard food after a breakup, the only reason to overeat is an emotional one. "Modern women of course, have jobs and access to resources now, but back then, it was likely that women were smaller and needed more protection and help with resources," Harrison also noted. Of course, thanks to a plethora of fast food options, it's never been easier to get ice cream and pizza delivered right to your door, so even though women (and men) may have access to food and don't need to hoard it, it's easy to overdo the indulgences when you're feeling emotional. 

So how can someone take control of emotional eating urges to avoid post-breakup weight loss? Emotional eating can be eating to distract yourself from a problem and choosing comfort food to make yourself feel better. If this sounds like what you tend to do post-breakup, the Mayo Clinic recommends working on controlling your stress, getting emotional support (from friends or professionals), keeping junk food out of the house, and making sure that your diet is packed with healthy, satisfying meal options.