When a marriage ends, whether due to divorce or death, there are a lot of changes and emotional upheavals. Many aspects of life are altered for the newly single, and adjustments need to be made due to differences in income levels, living situations, or in the case of divorce: custody agreements, and more. But there are other aspects you might not even think of that can also be affected, and one of these is nutrition. New research shows that post-marriage eating habits are impacted for the worse among men, but interestingly not among women.
The study, which took place at the University of Cambridge Centre for Diet and Activity Research in the United Kingdom, found that men who have been divorced or widowed can end up with worse eating habits and a lower quality of nutrition than their counterparts who remain married.1 Vinther, Johan L.; et al. “Marital transitions and associated changes in fruit and vegetable intake: Findings from the population-based prospective EPIC-Norfolk cohort, UK.” Social Science & Medicine. May 2016. Accessed 1 June 2016. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953616301642 The subjects were 11,577 men and women ranging in age from 39 to 78 who were part of a long-term health study in the U.K. They were all given a physical examination between 1993 and 1997, and again between 1998 and 2002. During each of these periods, the participants were asked to report their typical intake of 11 types of fruits and 26 types of vegetables.
Evaluations of the volunteers’ nutrition were based on their overall health at their checkups as well as the quantity and variety of produce they were consuming. During the first segment of the investigation, 89 percent of the men and 78 percent of the women involved said they were married. By the second segment of the investigation, an average of 3.6 years later, 2.4 percent of the male subjects and 4.5 percent of the female subjects had been separated, divorced, or widowed.
After analyzing the nutritional habits of the participants in both segments, the researchers determined that the men who were no longer married had an approximately 25 percent lower daily intake of fruits and vegetables compared to their peers who were still married. In addition, the foods they ate were less varied, suggesting they stuck with the same few things and didn’t benefit from a wide range of nutrients. Changes were noted in the women’s diets as well, but these were not found to be statistically significant.
Alcohol consumption was also evaluated, but it was determined that drinking habits were relatively unaffected in men when their marriage ended. Surprisingly, it was the women whose drinking was more influenced. The numbers were small, but there was a measurable decrease in alcohol intake among the female volunteers who had been separated or divorced. The amount totaled approximately one drink less per week than the women who were still married.
Ultimately, the results may be very telling about a particular generation and how they were raised. The vast majority of the subjects were born in the first half of the 20th Century at a time when grocery shopping and food preparation were largely considered a woman’s responsibility. It is entirely possible that a different outcome would be shown if the participants were born in the 1960s, 70s, or 80s, when more mothers were working and most people learned their way around the kitchen a little better. Of course, there are still plenty of families with traditional gender roles for whom this might not hold true, but in general the results would likely vary to some extent.
If you find yourself single after years of marriage and you’re a man whose wife took care of things like dinner preparation, there’s always time to pick up a few new skills. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket, where you’ll find the produce and many of the other healthier items. Don’t forget to write up a grocery list before you hit the store, either. A 2015 study by the Rand Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania showed that people are much more likely to resist impulse buying and eat more nutritiously when they bring a shopping list.2 Dubowitz, Tamara; et al. “Using a Grocery List Is Associated With a Healthier Diet and Lower BMI Among Very High-Risk Adults.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. May-June 2015. Accessed 2 June 2016. http://www.jneb.org/article/S1499-4046(15)00008-1/abstract
Along with lean sources of protein and whole grains, it’s essential to include enough fruits and vegetables in your diet since produce offers lots of nutrients, antioxidants, and filling fiber, while being low in calories. A good variety is best because each fruit and vegetable provides somewhat different benefits. And fruits and vegetables have been linked in numerous studies to lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. So even if you’re only shopping and cooking for yourself, take care to do right by your body nutritionally. And just for safe measure, to make up for any deficiencies in your “new” diet, you might want to considering supplementing with a good multivitamin and a good, full-spectrum antioxidant–as well as doing regular detoxes to keep things running smoothly.
|↑1||Vinther, Johan L.; et al. “Marital transitions and associated changes in fruit and vegetable intake: Findings from the population-based prospective EPIC-Norfolk cohort, UK.” Social Science & Medicine. May 2016. Accessed 1 June 2016. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953616301642|
|↑2||Dubowitz, Tamara; et al. “Using a Grocery List Is Associated With a Healthier Diet and Lower BMI Among Very High-Risk Adults.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. May-June 2015. Accessed 2 June 2016. http://www.jneb.org/article/S1499-4046(15)00008-1/abstract|