As it turns out, not that likely.
Ever heard of “kummerspeck”? Kummerspeck is the word for the German concept of gaining weight due to emotional eating. Literally translated, “kummerspeck” means “grief bacon.”
We all know that sometimes people use food to cope with negative emotions. Emotional eating comforts us; it temporarily makes us feel better and even distracts us from the sadness or grief, but emotional eating leads to unhealthy eating habits, health problems if we’re not careful, and of course weight gain.
Relationship breakups are a common source of negative emotions and emotional eating (we’ve all heard the cliche about grabbing a pint of ice cream after a breakup — some of us have been that cliche), and so researchers from Penn State and Albright College dove into the concept of kummerspeck to find out if people are more likely to gain weight after a relationship breakup.
Turns out, they’re not.
- Study 1: Researchers had 581 participants complete a survey about whether they’d had a recent relationship breakup and, if so, whether they’d gained or lost weight within a year of the breakup. 62.7% reported no weight change, leading surprised researchers to conduct a second study.
- Study 2: Researchers had 261 different participants complete a revised survey. This survey was more extensive. Like the first survey, the second survey asked whether the participant had experienced the breakup of a long-term relationship and whether they gained or lost weight as a result of the breakup, but also asked participants: what were their attitudes toward their ex-partner, how committed was the relationship, who initiated the breakup, did they tend to eat emotionally, and how much did they enjoy food in general. Again, the majority of participants reported no weight change after a breakup — this time, 65.13%.
However, it should be noted that in the second survey, a small number of women who reported having a tendency to emotionally eat did also report having gained weight after a breakup.
So, unless you already have a bad habit of emotionally eating, it’s probably safe to say you’re not at major risk for weight gain or other health problems if you reach for that bag of chips or box of chocolate or even make a fast food run or two in the couple of days following a breakup. Most likely, kummerspeck won’t get its claws in you.
Out of curiosity, let’s conduct our own mini survey.
Talk to me! What’s been your experience with weight gain (or loss) after a breakup? Or, emotional eating in general? How do you combat the urge, or get yourself back on track with healthy foods?