Gaining Weight After a Breakup Isn't the Norm, According to New Research

A new study has found that the large majority of people see no weight change post-split.

woman lying in bed with covers over her head eating ice cream and sweets after breakup

We all know the rom-com trope of a broken-hearted, depressed soul, digging their spoon into a pint of ice cream as a way of coping with a painful breakup. But how many people actually add inches to their waistlines due to the end of a romantic relationship? According to new research published in the Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium, not nearly as many as the movies would have you believe.

Marissa Harrison, an associate professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg, and her colleagues conducted two studies on the subject and found similar results. In the first study, the researchers asked 581 people—261 men and 320 women, with an average age of 30—whether they had recently gone through a breakup and whether or not they had gained or lost weight within a year of the split. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62.7 percent) reported no change in weight.

In the second study, the researchers asked 261 new participants—193 women and 68 men, with an average age of 29—more extensive questions, such as how serious the relationship was, who initiated the breakup, how they currently felt about their ex, whether or not they were prone to emotional eating, and what their attitude toward food was like overall. While all of the participants said they'd experienced a breakup at some point in their lives, 65.13 percent reported no change in weight following the split. The only caveat was that women who had a tendency to emotionally overeat did gain some weight post-breakup.

Packing on the pounds as a result of being unceremoniously dumped has always been a bit of a pop culture stereotype, though it's also possible that it's an evolutionary instinct that we have since outgrown.

"Food was much scarcer in the ancestral environment, so if your partner abandoned you, it could have made gathering food much harder," Harrison said in a statement. "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."

And for more on how splitting up affects your physical and mental health, check out The Real Reasons Why Breakups Hurt So Much, According to Science.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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